Working lobster nets in the dark is one thing, but throw in big seas, wind and proximity to exposed rocks, and you have the makings of a potential catastrophe. So the first safety edict is to watch the weather and sea state, and the second is to stay well clear of dangerous rocks and shore breaks.
That’s pretty basic stuff, and you’d think it would be easy advice to follow. Yet the lure of Pacific treasure seems to constantly suck boaters into harm’s way, largely because lobster fishing really heats up when big seas stir the bottom near shore. This has led to the saying “When the waves are tall, the bugs will crawl.” It has also led to boats being tossed on the rocks or capsized while hoop-netting close to shore. Tragically, on more than one occasion, it has resulted in loss of life.
The cascade of events in such a disaster often includes a fouled propeller. The polypropylene line used for the hoop nets is the main culprit, and once wrapped in the prop, a boat can lose propulsion. For this reason, most hoop-netters prefer outboards and sterndrives, allowing them to tilt up the drive and quickly untangle or cut a fouled line. Also, safety-conscious hoop-netters always have the anchor ready to deploy should the boat lose power or steering for any reason.
Lobsters have a mysterious grip on southern California boating anglers, luring them out on the Pacific Ocean at night, loaded with nets, buoys and bait, ready to brave big seas and stand their ground against other fishermen. The California spiny lobster season is upon us. Let the bug battles begin.