Lobster in San Diego
They can reach up to 3 feet long and weigh in at 26 pounds if your lucky enough to find one. I am talking about the Spiny Lobster which primarily resides in the waters from Monterey California into Baja Mexico. San Diego is home to one of the largest fleets of Lobster boats in the California and I have heard that 70% of the Spiny Lobsters are caught from La Jolla to Point Loma. That might be a little high but the sea ground and rocky coastline in these areas make an ideal place to get lobster. Lobster fishing in San Diego runs from mid October to mid-march and in San Diego that means you’ll see the Lobster boats right off the coast and the beaches for most of the winter season. In addition to the boats you’ll find independent fisherman dropping hoop nets off the rocks, off their boats and in many cases night diving to catch them under the rocks. My brother Bill was a very big diver for Lobsters and we routinely would go out and he would catch 7 legal size lobsters every time he would go out. He packed his freezer full of Lobster tails and we would have a Lobster Festival every year (usually in January) where everyone could try any recipe with the lobster tails that they wanted. It was fantastic.
Lobster fishing is great in San Diego. If you have dive equipment you can go basically go right off the rocks in the calm waters of Mission Bay or the beach and grab lobsters with your gloved hands and put them in your bag. You need to carry a lobster bag and a lobster gauge which ensures the tail of the lobster is at least 3 and 1/4 inches. Unfortunately if you are going to be fishing for Lobsters off a pier you also need a fishing permit. You need fishing permit to catch lobsters period actually. The best Spiny Lobsters for San Diegan’s is actually not even in San Diego but south of the border. We used to get loads of lobster down in a tiny port town of Mexico called Puerto Nuevo. You go into these restaurants and you can order lobster, salad, tortillas and fantastic bean soup for $12. It is pretty amazing and a really fun experience.
The best bait for lobster fishing is to use a bait that is oily and really smells. The best bait are things like squid, mackerel, bonito, sardines and raw chicken. Mackerel is what the professionals use because it is really cheap in San Diego and when it gets old it smells worse than any fish that you have ever smelled. The other thing about smelly fish is that even if you don’t get a lobster you might end up getting a crab. They basically love the same stuff that lobsters like but they move a lot slower. The Lobsters have hair trigger response to things and they propel themselves with great force by their tails at the slightest movement. I mean they have been known to break divers mask because they propel themselves at such high speeds when they are startled. To catch them by hand you have to pin them to the bottom. If you are night diving you have to watch out because they look alot bigger underwater than when you get them to the surface. That’s why you have to carry a lobster gauge because you will get fined if you take a lobster that is too small.
I headed down in the afternoon to the port of San Diego to see what I could see there and I noticed that all the lobster boats were back in and there boats already cleaned. These guys catch tons of lobsters on their boats. Here is nice little boat called Rosalia’s. It’s a well kept traditional lobster boat that just looked so nice and blue in front of the San Diego backdrop. This little boat chugs out there on the cool and misty mornings and the lobster man pulls his traps to see what he has caught the night before. Sometimes his trap is loaded with fresh lobster.
Lobster boats are very unique and this is a traditional Maine style lobster boat. Atlantic lobster is the lobster you are used to seeing. It has the big snapping claws that can bite you. The spiny lobster is just as dangerous. They can slice your hands open underwater if you try to pick them up without gloves. Their spines are so sharp they are like blades.
These lobster traps are empty now but you can see the ropes and buoys in them. They pack these traps with stinky mackerel. The lobsters hop in to get a free meal and then next thing that they know they can’t leave. They call lobsters in San Diego bugs. Because they kind of look like bugs underwater. When you see a spiny lobster underwater at night it is pretty creepy. They remind you of huge cockroaches. And they hang out in groups and are very curious as to what your light is. You get used to it though. And the best part is getting them home and eating them.
This little dinghy here was tied up to the end of the pier and it was called the “Taitanic” which I am not sure if that was on purpose or a mistake. It had lots of scribbling and writing on the inside and it said something about fisherman being “poody heads” whatever that means. I think some kids had fun decorating their little dinghy. I am not sure who uses it but it didn’t even have a motor on it so maybe it was just derelict there.
It was another beautiful day in San Diego and tomorrow morning the Lobster fisherman will be out again catching the best lobster you could ever taste.