Lobster season started today. I'm not much of a hunter, but several of my enthusiastic classmates were going diving for bugs (as they're called in local parlance), and I decided to go along, as a novelty, just to go.
Lobster season here runs from October through March, with the first weekend being reserved for recreational fishers. The basic regulations, courtesy of the CA Dept. of Fish & Game:
Recreational harvesters need a valid sport shing license with an ocean enhancement stamp, and may use hoop nets or bare (gloved) hands when skin or scuba diving for lobster. No appliance, such as a sh spear or a short hooked pole, may be used to snag the animals from deep crevices or caves. The daily bag limit for sport shing is seven lobsters, reduced from 10 in 1971. Commercial and recreational lobster shermen are restricted to a minimum size limit of 3 1/4 inches carapace length.*To be quite honest, the idea of catching something with the express purpose of ending its life for my own casual culinary enjoyment doesn't appeal to me. Of course, I'm not veggie, so my reasoning is a bit skewed, because I often eat things already killed for me. But I've never liked watching fish die, and always feel a bit guilty eating fishies, etc., because I'm a diver, and I often see them in their natural habitat. So the dive was intended as a diversion, not to be in any way productive.
My enthusiastic classmates, some of whom have been anticipating this day for many weeks and months, couldn't wait for the first day of the season to go diving, but instead wanted to be in the water at the very first minute of the season (lobster is a nocturnal species: they socialize, hunt, frollick primarily at night). We were at the dive site by 11:30pm.
This was my second dive out here. The water is a bit cold, there are largish waves to contend with getting into and out of the water, and said waves produce surge underwater (which results in a persistant back-and-forth churning motion, somewhat troublesome when one is essentially floating weightless, in kelp). Add a dive site 250 steps below where we parked (this dive was also off the Mesa), plus night, and I've got a healthy respect (read: minor fear) for this dive. The respect is warranted, but the fear is really overkill, as I'm a strong and competent diver, diving with others of similar experience, so there's really no question of whether or not I'll be diving (despite the moments of indecision on the beach, watching 4-5 ft. waves, at a minimum, breaking just off shore).
After a decent surface swim, we arrive at a buoy, and excite the bioluminescence for a while, until everyone converges, and then we descend. My dive bud is Carlo (given name Giancarlo, a good Italian name), a surfer from LA, and one of the most patient and chill people I know. Underwater, we meander a bit, not really seeing anything at first. Visibility is ok, but not great, and at our shallow depth, the surge is really moving us around. After maybe 15 minutes, I see a lobster. I momentarily extinguish my dive light, to give me a moment to think, but without scaring the wee bugger off. I turn the light back on, and reach in, but he's surprisingly fast, and jets away before I get a good hold on him. Repeat this same scenario about 5 more times, and you get the gyst of my dive. What surprised me though, was that after reaching in for that first one, I really wanted to take at least one bug, a kind of fever. I wanted it bad.
But it wasn't meant to be. The dive ended a few thousand psi later, we surfaced, and, with the help of Carlo's knowledgeable suggestions, made it safely through the surf, back to shore, and somehow, back up those 250 steps.