Both of the lobster’s large claws are securely banded prior to showing friends. “It’s a female identified by a wide tale and wide swimmerets” I explain. Its tail flaps wildly in my firm hand. As I point out and measure body parts, one hard twist crushes a finger within a spikey hard elbow, startling me in the process. Four years of harvesting lobsters yet this is another “first.” The finger heals quickly but the lesson remains: expect the unexpected. Many object lessons result from interactions with this ocean prize. Here are a few of my lobster lessons.
#1 Push Through Difficult Tasks
Fish racks are fish bodies, heads and internal organs minus the meaty fillets. They have been my primary lobster bait for four seasons. Sources include local fish counters, my own fish, and the fillet stand bucket at Don’s Dock. Holding my breath, I scoop up piles into a plastic bucket or carve up racks then drive around town with it. On warm days it takes only a few minutes for a pervasive stench to develop. Skin, hair and clothing absorb the distinctive smell which requires aggressive decontamination before I can be near people. It is only a disciplined focus on the lobster prize that keeps me handling this stuff.
#2 Nature is in Charge
Each season sees the loss of lobster gear from storms, strong tides, and careless boaters. Some pots are discovered mangled atop the Stonington breakwater and others disappear completely. Weather conditions dictate when and how I handle gear. I’m learning, begrudgingly, to accept losses as part of this hobby. It goes against every molecule of my frugal nature but I’m learning to accept the inevitable that each trip is a gamble and some loss is inevitable. It is on a razer’s edge I dance knowing the result may be a prize, disappointment, or disaster.
#3 Stay Flexible and Grateful
A recent pot contains a huge Tautaug fish which, judging from its very round shape, has just consumed an entire lobster with shell. This leaves the fish unable to escape through the small opening. Legal-sized black sea bass, porgy, skate and flounder have also presented themselves this way. Although the gear is set for lobster, all gifts are appreciated.
#4 Enjoy Every Minute
Carving out time on the water several times a week is challenging and weather doesn’t always cooperate but all that free air, sunshine and exercise does a body good. Deeply breathing in the salty air energizes my whole body while hauling up pots strengthens arm, back and leg muscles. Spectacular ocean and shoreline views surpass anything an indoor gym offers.
#5 Try New But Appreciate Tradition
Lobster swimming in butter is a perpetual favorite but deep-fried lobster, lobster puffs, garlic zucchini with lobster and grilled lobster arouse taste buds. Still, there’s nothing I’ve found so delicious as buttery lobster chunks on Ritz crackers or a grilled New England hot dog roll.
There’s more, of course, but time on the water shapes me into an improved captain, cook, athlete, environmentalist, consumer, writer, and person. Chasing lobsters challenges and strengthens more facets of my life than I thought possible. Layers of hard, dirty work nurtures appreciation for this community where the ocean and land meet and the tides and currents regulate life. Do you have a lobster story?