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First Person Report: Lobsters

First Person Report: Lobster crawl full-speed for the opener

BY MICHAEL REYNOLDS/Special to Western Outdoor News Published: Oct 18, 2018

LONG BEACH — This year’s lobster season opener was the best opening weekend I have ever seen in 15 years of hooping.

Our target areas were inside of the Federal Breakwall of the San Pedro Bay, at the Long Beach/Los Angeles border also known as Pier 400. This area has various structure spots in about 18 to 30 feet of water. These types of structure spots include: breakwalls, pier pilings, rock piles, scattered rocks, pinnacles, submerged rock walls, traffic bell anchored blocks, mooring buoy anchored blocks, the oil islands, wrecks, ridges, pipelines, and such.


bugzilla
A ‘BUGZILLA’


The water starts to cool down this time of year, which triggers new kelp growth. Kelp grows rapidly, so keep an eye out for surface kelp that will reveal some type of structure spot.


I always go through my gear and prep it at least a week or two before by checking the bridles of the hoops, my bait pouches, my connection knots, my lines for nicks or weak spots, my floats to make sure there are no leaks and that the GO (Get Outdoors) ID number is written on them. I also check my bait cages and then I go out and buy anything that I might need such as a new lobster gauges, gloves, headlamps, spotlights, glow sticks, cable ties, batteries, sharpie markers, etc. I always have backups with me including electrical tape, scissors, rubber gloves, reflective tape, a bait knife, sinkers, and Ziplocs.


Opening day arrived and it was sunny skies with low winds and great visibility. I like to leave around 2 p.m. — that way I can get out to an area, scope it out, and drop hoops in the spot I want to target.


We anchored up, claiming the inside harbor wreck we call Double Hump. Then I starting chumming and catching mackerel for bait as we waited for the sun to drop. As expected, there were lots of boats in the general area. I saw well over 20 boats in the Long Beach Inner Harbor area on opening night.


We pulled up the hoops, baited them, and dropped them about 30 minutes before sunset, remembering to place them up current so that our scent, once the hoop net hits the bottom, blew down-current into the structure to draw the bugs out.


I like to set my hoops out in a triangle or in an arch, because sometimes the bottom might have a different tidal surge when in shallow water, than the top current or wind current. I like to only drop 3 to 4 hoops in one spot. Locate the bugs, then ambush them. I like to drop my hoops between 10 and 15 feet apart so that the scent can be stronger and concentrated in one area.


goodpull
A GOOD PULL


The first set, or the first drop of all 10 hoops, should be your longest soak time. Leave them down between 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Let them soak! Let the scent drift down-current. That’s the most important time! Do not disturb the nets. Do not shine your spotlights down looking into your hoops. Stay close by and make sure nobody else disturbs your hoops. This period of time is when you should be trying to catch fresh mackerel or having dinner.


Finally, the time had come to pull the hoops! This is always peak catching time, between 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Approach against the current, slowly… as the floats are grabbed, make sure the pull has a fluid motion without pausing or hesitating, which will give them a chance to escape. Pull up as hard as possible so that the water pressure pushes them down, and keeps all critters inside of the hoop.


Do not send any vibrations or twitches down the line before the hoop is to be hoisted. Make sure the hoop is almost straight up and down. You don’t want to pull the hoop if it’s underneath the boat or if it’s 30 feet in front of the boat at a steep angle. You want to come up as vertically as possible, especially when using the flat style hoops.


As soon as a hoop net is up, out of the water, bring it over the gunwale as fast as possible! Do not just hover up and out of the water, because it is possible a lobster could be hanging on the outer ring — a bug may not be fully inside of the hoop. That way, if anything’s holding onto the outside, it will fall off into the boat, and not back into the drink. Look inside the hoop before reaching in. There could be hazards inside like scorpionfish, stingrays, urchins, crabs and other bycatch.


The first hoop net I pulled up was a blank, it had nothing in it, which is why our sport is called fishing and not catching! I am an experienced, seasoned pro, but I am still reminded of this all of the time.


The second hoop net we pulled had two lobsters in it, and both were legal size — each being approximately 2 or 3 pounds each. This is the perfect size bug!


The third hoop net I pulled had 4 lobsters inside and three were legal, and one was a clicker or barely undersized which was thrown back immediately. The fourth hoop net up and another two-bagger! One was big, approximately 6 pounds, and the other was barely legal sized.


buginthetank335

BUGS IN THE TANK


The fifth hoop net had one keeper, and the sixth hoop net was another blank.


The results: The outside hoops came up empty, but the middle hoops had red flapping gold in them. Long Beach Harbor hoop netting this season looks to be promising as this was a great first harvest.


Shortly after, we calmed down. We were hearing other boaters nearby hooting and hollering — lobster were being caught everywhere! We ended our night with double limits. We had to throw back the two legal lobsters that came up in our last hoop net. Also, we must have released about two and a half-dozen short lobster, the broodstock of the future.


I made one change this year. I went to San Pedro’s Fish Market, where there is a wholesale business called J. Deluca (See Oscar and/or John) and I was able to pick up fresh bluefin tuna carcass scraps such as stomachs, various organs and bloodlines. This is the best lobster bait I have ever had. Other effective baits are carcass scraps and bloodlines from yellowfin tuna, skipjack, bonita and then mackerel.


One trick I have up my sleeve that I will share for the first time is to catch a live mackerel, zip tie it to the bottom of the hoop net, and then slice the bait a couple of times. At this point it is still kicking, twitching and bleeding — drop the hoop net down! This will add vibration and movement, with a fresh blood scent trail, which will be more appealing to the bottom crawlers. Just be forewarned, because there is no limit to what can be caught in that hoop! Once I caught a 40-pound bat ray — I thought I was playing tug-o-war with a seal or had a new state record catch.


Happy hoop netting everyone! 2018-2019 lobster season looks very promising! In fact, I went out the next night and caught a double-digit bugzilla along with another limit for a new client of mine.


Michael Reynolds runs the LBC Fishing Guide Service.


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