|From a crusty old Sea Captain who spent a few years kicking around the tropics.....
on the subject of lobster hunting
LOBSTER HUNT 101
Assuming your weapon is what we used to call a "pole spear" - a long fiberglass pole, about 6 feet in length and has a sharp, three fingered prong about a foot long on the one end and an elastic band attached at the other end. Propulsion of the pole is achieved by extending the elastic wrapped around your hand forward, while gripping the pole as far forward as the strength in your arm allows for.
It is best to use divers gloves with non-skid fingertips that help keeping a good grip on the pole while cocked with the elastic. This type of device never leaves your hand, as opposed to the true "Hawaiian Sling", which is a single steel rod projectile that is fired out of an elastic slingshot. It is for experts only, as you end up loosing the rod projectile when you miss your target - or your target takes off with it!
Huntress Wendy (AKA the Great White Underwater Lobster Hunter) is demonstrating the pole spear here:
If you are freediving (no SCUBA), pick depths that you are comfortable with and can spend some time at the bottom before running out of air. Remember, lobsters are found in waters as shallow as 2 feet and less! We used to get them around East Sisters, the island with the house on it on the flats outside of BKH, in waters so shallow we had to tilt-up the outboard motor of the dinghy.
Lobsters go into any crevice that makes a good hiding place and can be found on reefs but getting them is too difficult there without compressed air. You see Frenchmen diving the reefs and sticking their hands into crevices to find lobsters, sometime finding a moray eel instead...
So, you are looking for barren, shale or rocky flat bottoms without grass or sand. There are lots of flat rocky bottoms all around in amongst the grassy or sandy areas, you just have to locate them. This is done by what is commonly referred to as "live baiting" and is usually best done with the help of an ex wife / ex husband, but your current mate will do in a pinch;
The smarter of you drives the dinghy and the other one is towed behind with a mask on and at a speed where the person's head can be kept under water to look for the rocky spots between sandy or grassy flats. On the banks this is OK to do with Mel, but if you are on a shore adjacent to deeper offshore waters always use an ex. On the flats, you may have a nurse shark gumming on your flippers but close to deep waters it will be a bull or tiger shark and they actually have teeth!
Here is what you are looking for = antennas:
You are looking for antennas sticking out from under ledges and from inside holes in the bottom. You will not see the whole lobster, only their antennas. Sometimes hundreds. If you see a car's hood with antennas sticking out all around, that was put there by a local and you should stay away. When you see local island boats loaded up with old car hoods leaving Miami, now you know why...
You'll see conch "walking" around on the bottom too and this is a good time to pick up a couple of those (queen conch).
Should you not have an ex wife on hand, you can use a glass bottom bucket, but it's more work because you have to stop here and there randomly and look into the water to find your spot.
So, Mel, you see a pair of antennas and you let go of the line towing you so you don't loose the spot. John turns around and returns to be nearby.
Remember, lobsters do not swim, they crawl, but with one snap of their tail "feathers" they can propel themselves backwards at high speed for several feet - you do not approach them from the front because they will either pull into the hidey hole or take off backwards.
You see the antennas and you approach from behind over the cover of the ledge the lobster is under. You gently touch (tickle) the antennas with the end of your pole spear and cock the weapon as tight as you can. By now the lobster is slowly inching out of the hole to see what is out there tickling his antennas. You are behind him and as he emerges you carefully place the business end of your pole spear directly on top of his carapace as close as you can get without actually touching it, right where X marks the spot and release your grip on the pole to impale your pray:
The force of your pole spear must be substantial, especially when dealing with larger lobsters and ideally the barbs will go right through and into the bottom so he can not wiggle off, while you continue to apply downward force on the pole.
You must now grip the lobster's body with your other, free hand and hold it tight on the spear because the big ones will simply wiggle off once you bring the spear off the bottom. There is only one way to actually kill a lobster, and your pole spear will not do it, he will take off if you are not careful and die somewhere else as some other creature's meal and not yours.
So, you come up to the surface with one hand holding the pole spear and the other the lobster still on the spear. Be very careful you or the lobster does not damage your inflatable air tubes!!
You hand pole and lobster to John and he pulls the pole spear out of the lobster. If you want to be humane you can stick a knife between the eyes and poke it down into the body cavity and mush the guts around, that's the only way to put them out of misery (unless you want to separate the tail from the body right away). Then you get some air in your lungs and go down for the next one.
You can separate the tail from the body and throw the body back in, it will not attract sharks because lobsters do not bleed, but it is best to do it later. Of course, you never throw back fish where you intend to continue diving!
To separate the tail from the body:
First you brake off an antenna and in order to dislodge the digestive track, you turn your dead lobster on his back, find the shit-hole, stick the antenna in, ream it around a bit and pull it out. Grab the body (with gloved hands!) in one hand and the tail in the other and twist hard and fast. The tail should separate from the body and if you did it right you will see the digestive track dangling from the body and the tail clean of it. If you didn't ream it out right, you can pull the track vain out by hand.
Enjoy the hunt and let us know how it goes.
Captain and The Huntress