By Pat Ford
The trick to finding and catching these tasty critters is putting time on/under the water. There’s no real pattern to lobster habitat other than they like places they can back into to hide – coral heads, undercut banks, etc. They can be in any depth of water from the flats to the outside reefs. You don’t need scuba gear to be successful but it’s a big plus when you det in more than 15’ of water. The first step is spottingthe lobster on the bottom or maybe just it’s antenna poking out from under a ledge or piece of coral. Next step is to dive down and tickle the lobster out of the hole and into your net….easier said than done. The lobster doesn’t want to leave its hole and will dig in deeper or even scoot out a back door. Once in the open it will take off, backwards, and it your net is not in position, the little critter can go a long way. This isn’t a problem if you have a tank, but if you’re freediving, you’re probably going to have to surface before you can continue the chase. Keeping an eye on your prey while you surface for air is not as easy as you might think. There are lobster kits available in most sporting goods stores in the Keys but make sure you’re getting a net that has some depth to it. I used a shallow net this year and had 4 big lobster escape because I couldn’t flip the net and close the opening.
The most important thing to keep in mind during lobster season is safety. Always know your diving limits, be mindful of current, never start the engines while people are in the water, try to leave someone in the boat while the others are diving. Watch out for things that sting or bite such as fire coral, lionfish, scorpionfishand to a lesser extent sharks. Nurse sharks are relatively harmless unless you put your hand in their mouth, but the do like eating lobster. It’s also prudent for the boat person to double check the measurement of each lobster before it’s dumped in the cooler…sometimes water measurements are a bit liberal…..and have fun!