Last year I found several locations for catching porgy, black sea bass and sea robin … while I was attempting to catch fluke (summer flounder). All I needed was a fishing pole and some small pieces of squid. This year, there seem to be more dogfish sharks around eating my bait because I keep catching them. Although they are considered edible, they aren’t my target species so I’ve returned them to the ocean with only a sore mouth. With a size up to 36 or more inches long, their muscular bodies put up an exciting fight.
Removing a hook from their mouth is challenging since they continue gyrating wildly in or out of the water in an attempt to spit out the hook. This summer I have several lures designed to entice fluke. I still add a piece of squid to it but now I’m attempting several more complicated techniques including drifting into deeper water. So far, that has resulted in absolutely zero fluke but I’ve enjoyed myself on the water. An angry skate collected a snack and a free ride onto my bait table. Of course, he went back into the water even though I’ve been told the wing sections taste like scallops. I enjoy the mystery of not knowing what’s on the end of that line before reeling in.
Laughter rang out as I reeled in a mussel that enclosed my entire bait and hook within its two shells. I thought it was unusual until the same thing happened in the same location a few minutes later. Yes, even the shellfish will grab anything they can for food even though I thought they only ate passively. Now I know why the opening between shells is so large: they can eat something almost as large as themselves and are aggressive feeders. Who knew?
Hauling up each lobster trap gives me the same opportunity as line fishing to guess what the ocean has provided. Sometimes the pot includes food and other times provides a bit of entertainment. A good-sized starfish contorted itself to get into my trap. I love to surprise critters with a fast ride to the surface. I’ll bet every one of them planned to eat and leave but my arrival interrupted their plans to dine and dash.
The starfish was willing to pose for a photo with a lobster missing both front claws. The male lobster’s carapace (body) was large enough for me to legally harvest so I put him out of his misery. Without protection, his days in the big, bad ocean were numbered anyway. Something out there has been tearing off more lobster claws than usual. Maybe there’s a lobster Fight Club and I keep collecting the losers who hide from larger predators in my traps. Their brutality to each other results in me finding empty shells or damaged lobsters when hauling up gear. Cannibalism is part of life in the ocean.
Inedible spider crabs often overtake entire pots so it is more entertaining for me to discover something else. Jonah crabs, green crabs and Asiatic crabs all find their way to my free buffet. Of course, I’d rather find lobster in there but… that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. This year’s lobster season has not only been slow for me but also for the commercial fishermen. The cost per pound may be a bit higher for that special meal but is completely justifiable for a seashore classic.
Two recent pots have been very heavy and difficult to haul onto my skiff. Both contained huge quantities of seaweed but inside some of that seaweed were lobsters playing hide-and- seek. See if you can find the lobsters in the photo. I’ll bet hiding in seaweed that is the same color as itself makes good lobster camouflage when there aren’t enough rock caves for everyone. I’ve been surprised more than once to find something moving when reaching in to remove seaweed. When I’m lucky, it’s a legal lobster. 🙂