Strict regulations are imposed on recreational lobster fishing by the California Department of Fish and Game (see “Lobster Regulations”), but there are also some unwritten rules for boaters. It is when these are broken that battles tend to ensue.
One of the most important unwritten rules is that first arrivals get their choice of spots, and so some hoop-netters arrive in the afternoon to set their nets (10 is maximum) and stake their claims. Late arrivals need to keep an acceptable distance or go elsewhere. Conflicts arise over what an acceptable distance is. Also, the definition of acceptable distance can vary, depending on the locale.
In the altercation between Vanguard and Claim Jumper, for example, 50 yards seemed like an acceptable distance to the captain of Claim Jumper, though the captain of Vanguard disagreed.
“Anything less than 50 yards is definitely encroachment, unless fishing an extremely popular spot such as the Marina del Rey breakwater,” said Steve Bowcott, who keeps his boat docked in Marina del Rey and fishes the breakwater regularly. “In this case, 20 to 25 yards is an acceptable distance. The main goal here is for a late-arriving boat to avoid setting his nets in a manner that might interfere with another boat trying to pick up its established set of nets.
“While fishing the breakwater, I’ve seen boats drop nets right on top of mine, and that’s totally uncool,” Bowcott said. “Just picking up my buoy becomes a major ordeal, especially in trying to keep from fouling my prop in his line.”