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Outdoors Q&A: Is White Meat from Green Lobsters Safe to Eat?

Read on for answers to that question and others about state regulations on hunting and fishing.

By Carrie Wilson |

Question: A buddy of mine got two lobsters in San Diego Bay over the weekend. While he was cleaning them he noticed green algae on their shells and then found the meat to be white, looking like it was already cooked. Both lobsters were still alive when detailing them. Have you heard any other stories like this? Would they still have been OK to cook and eat? (Ray C., San Diego)

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Carrie Wilson
Answer: According to lobster experts Kristine Barsky and Doug Neilson, when you find a lobster with algae on its shell (exoskeleton), it usually means it hasn’t molted in quite awhile. This should be nothing to worry about, though.

An animal getting ready to molt pulls salts out of its shell and creates a soft exoskeleton underneath it that will expand with water and salts once the animal molts. Our best guess is that the old exoskeleton may have been overgrown and what your friend encountered (white, cooked-looking meat) could have been the new exoskeleton just under the old, making the meat look differently. As long as the animal was acting normally and still alive before he got ready to cook it, there was probably no problem with the meat.

One test that seafood businesses use when cooking whole lobsters is whether they curl. The shell should turn to a darker red color and the tail tends to curl (not tightly, but it’s difficult to lay the animal flat). If there’s no curl, they discard the animal.

Click here to view a photo of the California spiny lobster.

Question: While fishing the Sacramento deep water channel last winter, we caught a number of large stripers but were unable to revive and release them, even after working to revive them for extended periods of time. Water temperatures were cold and there was no current, so the oxygen level was probably low. Do you have any suggestions on how to revive these fish? (D. Bell, Sacramento)

Answer: According to environmental scientist Heather McIntire, dissolved oxygen levels in cold water are actually higher than oxygen levels in warm water. So, oxygen most likely wasn’t the issue.

In talking with other biologists who are also avid anglers, the consensus is that stripers do not tend to recover well from stress after such a hard fight or when confined in live wells. In addition, environmental factors such as food availability (which may be limited in winter) or pollutants could weaken their ability to respond to stressors.

Despite your valiant efforts to revive the striped bass, the fish you caught last winter appear to have been too physiologically stressed to be able to recover.

Question: I am interested in fishing both freshwater and saltwater, but plan to do only catch-and-release fishing. Will I still need a license if I’m fishing only for fun and not keeping any of the fish I catch? (Josh)

Answer: Yes. You will need to buy a license even for catch-and-release fishing. You must have a fishing license to engage in the act of fishing, regardless of whether you intend to keep fish. “Take” is defined in the regulations as even the “attempt to pursue or take” a fish or animal.

Question: I took the hunter safety course in El Dorado County in 1984, but now can’t find my hunter safety certificate. Are there any records to show that I have completed the course so that I can get a new hunting license and not have to retake the course? (Brandon G.)

Answer: According to hunter education coordinator Lt. James Kasper, you should first try to contact the hunter education instructor who issued your certificate so that he or she can issue you a duplicate certificate. If you can’t remember your instructor, we can check our databases, although the data going back that far may be limited.

Your regional Department of Fish & Game office should have access to the databases and be able to check for your name. If your name is found in the database, we can issue you a duplicate hunter education certificate for a fee ($5). If your name is not found in the database, you will need to take the hunter education course again. If you have an old California hunting license from a previous year, you may present it as proof of course completion to obtain a new hunting license.

Question: If I am spearfishing from the shore and return with my take, do I need to have my fishing license on my person or can it be in my car? (William H.)

Answer: People diving from a boat or shore may have their license on the boat or within 500 yards on the shore, respectively (FGC Section 7145).

Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. Her DFG-related question-and-answer column appears weekly at She can be reached at [email protected]

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» on 12.28.08 @ 07:31 AM

The fish from deep water that wouldn’t revive were probably fatally injured by the change in pressure when they were reeled up from deep water to the surface. if you check you may find that their swim bladders had burst.

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