Paul Lebowitz – IT'S JUST FISHING

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Bug Bait

Thoughts on Lobster Hooping

The bug wars are getting hotter every year. Oh, now that the opener has come and gone the combat conditions shouldn’t be as intense. It’s still an unfortunate part of too many self-caught lobster dinner.

I don’t know about you, but competition for the resource is getting me down and affecting when and where I tend my hoop nets. The obvious places, they just don’t hold much allure. Battling for space with divers and other hoopers at some picked over rock pile (here’s a short, another short, still yet a short, argh!) takes too much of an agro attitude. It sucks the sweetness right out of a peaceful fall evening.  

Few hoop netters are old-timers, although there are some truly savvy guys who’ve been at it a long time. There are a lot more of us now. The resource belongs to everyone, but its not hard to imagine the frustration felt by those who are now getting a smaller and smaller share.

I didn’t bag my first bug in 2004, as the secret started to get out. I was hooked. What a reward! Pulling up culinary gold, enjoying kingly feasts, all while hopefully saving a bunch of bucks – that’s if you’re any good at this deceptively difficult task. 

My first diver run-in didn’t take long. I had my spread of five out at a rarely hooped place when along came a skiff. They threw the hook practically on top of me, hit the water with SCUBA tanks, and just like that mowed right down my spread with their bright dive lights and bubble trails. I guess the empty spot 50 yards over was too far away for this crew.

The sore thumbs for this sort of action are definitely the breakwaters. I can imagine what hell it looks like to divers who’ve used these places year after year. They head out once it’s fully dark only to find line after line of hoop nets already in place. Rumors of nasty acts are rife, of depth-charge aggression from above and raided and slashed nets from below. Assault and thievery for oversized cockroaches? It’s not worth it. 

This ‘stuff’ attracts the wrong kind of attention, rules and regulations along the likes of 2007’s Ventura Harbor hoop net ban. That one was one-sided, homing in on the visible targets – the hoopers – while giving divers a free pass.

I’ll never understand why people can’t offer the even basic respect to one another, but where there’s competition for red gold, static seems inevitable and it only gets louder as the crowds grow.

The easy places aren’t worth it any longer. But straying off the beaten path has its price too. There’s always elevated risk. You’re out there alone or with a buddy in the dark, around rocks and sometimes surf, on a craft so small it might as well be invisible. The bright side is you’re out there alone – no competition.

So what am I saying? At this point, you really have to want it to hoop. You can go the thick skin route and fight for your piece of the lobster pie, or embrace some extra danger by staking out your own secret spot. And then there’s the third way, simply out-waiting the early season rush. When it’s cold enough to see your breath, chances are you’ll get some elbow room.

See you out there or better yet, not. Happy hooping and stay safe.

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