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Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 6:55 am | Fair 41º

 
 
 
 

Captain’s Log: Delectable Spiny Lobsters Make a Big Splash Locally

Lobster season results in a tasty choice, whether you're trapping them yourself or buying them off the dock.

A spiny lobster will not win any beauty contests, nor any Miss Congeniality contests, but it makes up for all of that in good taste. That is … meaning … they taste good to eat. Really good! Come to think of it, spiny lobsters and rock scallops are arguably our best two local seafod delicacies. That explains the big splash during lobster season.

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Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)
Splash really is a word that goes along with the effort to catch these delectable critters. Commercial lobster traps splash down into the water, baited, on their way to depths that range from just six feet to more than 100 feet. Once back at the docks, the critters are put into holding crates and splashed down next to the docks. If you want to buy some fresh lobster, you can stop by many of our seafood markets in town, or for an educational experience, go down to the Fish Market at the Santa Barbara Harbor on Saturday mornings to buy them right from the boats.

The recreational fishing community — which encompasses subsistence fisherfolk — also loves our local spiny lobster. At this time of year, divers work nearshore rocky reefs and kelp beds both along the mainland coast and the Channel Islands. Hoop netting has become so popular over the past several years that special regulations and limitations have been imposed to keep the peace and to keep our waterways safe. The concept is simple and the process makes for a very enjoyable evening on the water. Take a weighted hoop with a net stretched across, bait it with fish or other stuff, tie a rope onto it, buoy off the end of the line and toss it into the water adjacent to a breakwater, pier, reef or wreck. Most anglers work a number of hoops. Check them about every 20 to 30 minutes, re-bait as needed and toss them back out.

Our lobsters eat a variety of plants and animals, readily dining on most decaying materials. So your bait does not exactly have to be fresh.

Our lobsters are brick-red to brown. The shell (carapace) has numerous forward-pointing spines. Two heavy spiny antennae, longer than the body, flank two shorter “antennules.” They have two eyes set on short stalks beneath long sharp head spines, camouflaged by two large golden “false eyes” below the actual eyes.

Spiny lobsters spawn from March through August, so the season for them runs from October to March in order to protect them during their spawn. Females may carry up to 800,000 coral-red eggs beneath their tails. After hatching, tiny young lobsters drift with the currents for seven or eight months before settling to the bottom as juvenile lobsters. They generally range from San Luis Obispos County southward, and the Santa Barbara area has a robust and splashy lobster fishery. Enjoy some.

Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit group providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

 

Photo by Ramona Lisa McFadyen

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