LOBSTERS AND (ALMOST) ALL ABOUT THEM
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THE LOBSTER, A SHORT DESCRIPTION.
A large carnivorous shellfish found in the cold waters around the coastline of Britain, and indeed many other places :-), where there are beds of Kelp around rocky topography. They live in holes in the rocks and come out to eat and to mate. (what a life) They feed on other shellfish such as crabs or other crustacean and also carrion in the form of dead fish and other sea life. They are also capable of filter feeding on diatoms or plankton. When alive they are coloured a deep navy blue with white speckles and not, as some believe, bright red. If your Lobster is bright red then it is
Lobsters are hunted by extremely brave, and a little foolhardy, people in small
to medium sized boats, 14
to 30 feet in length. These people's lives are governed by the tides and have been known to be dragged
screaming from their beds at 5am to face the rain, snow, wind and other ferocities of the British weather
to face the prospect of being thrown about in the bowels of a rolling, jumping boat on the face of the
ocean when the previous evening they were attempting to break the record for "number of pints of beer
consumed in four hours without falling down" and failed!! On finally coming to, these people find
themselves carefully approaching a small orange floating thing that signifies the start of the first fleet of
The intrepid fisherman then clings tenaciously to the bounding boat with one hand and two knees while reaching forth with the trusty boat-hook, a longish pole with a curved metal hook lashed to the end with (always) orange string, to snag the loose rope streaming out behind the floaty thing, the skipper of the boat of course hopes that the rope IS behind the float for if it is in front then it has now wrapped itself several hundred times round the propeller, the thing that makes the boat go, and you will then face the prospect of several hours lying attached to the end of your fleet of creels by the propeller while you draw straws to discover who is going to remove their clothes and jump into the freezing water with a knife clutched between their teeth, alternatively, and if the weather is particularly bad, it's a call for assistance on the radio, been there done that!
So we now have the floaty thing on board the boat and we start to pull on the loose rope until it comes tight. At this point things can go two ways depending on the type of boat. On a small boat with limited room, up to about 18ft, usually the hauling is done by hand, in a larger boat there will be a hydraulic hauler which consists of a hydraulically driven wheel with a "V" cross section into which the rope is then placed and will be pulled in under complete control of the operator (not) As the creels come up, usually too fast and completely out of control, the operator will attempt to grab them before they end up mashed against the side of the hauler. If this maneuver is successful, and there is a 50% chance of that, the creel must then be emptied.
This is achieved by unhooking the end of the creel, which is hinged and hooked shut using a
made from a length of car tyre inner tube attached to yet another metal hook, and holding the creel, open
end down, over your collecting box and shaking in violently thus hoping that whatever is inside will fall
out. But like all things in this job it will most likely not work. All forms of crawling sea life will normally
have some form of attachment to hold them to the sea bed, or rock or just their dinner and will therefore
hold on for dear life to the creel sides which of course means that intrepid fisherman must now reach into
this seething mass of claw, mouth, stinger and pointy bits to attempt to dislodge the reluctant contents. By
this time of course creel No.2 has reached the surface and intrepid fisherman has forgotten to switch off
the hauler and so creel #2 has now mashed itself against the hauler and skipper is shouting obscenities at
intrepid fisherman. And so goes the hauling of the 50 or so fleets of 10 creels each
The above is a picture of a creel shown from the side'ish and a cross section showing, roughly, the design of the entrance or eye of the creel which is woven from net to demonstrate how the lobster can push it's way into the creel and float down to the bottom but cannot work out how to lift the net flap up and get back out
The thing dangling above the eye is a piece of bait :-)
Once the fleet of creels has been hauled emptied and re-baited with smelly slimy salt herring or other forms of fish remains the catch needs to be sorted for storage. Intrepid fisherman has to tackle some very angry Lobsters and crabs who's first instinct is to remove any stray fingers at the first opportunity. Intrepid fisherman's task is to sneak up on the unsuspecting Lobster and grab it by the body just at the back of the head portion and behind the dangerous nippy bits. There then follows a highly dangerous pastime. Intrepid fisherman needs to get an extremely thick tight and slippery elastic band around each of the angry Lobsters claws to prevent any further damage to life, limb and other lobsters! This is not easy and cannot be described adequately in words. Suffice it to say that the Lobster is gripped between Intrepid fisherman's knees while it flaps it's tail wildly and lashes out with two very strong claws which have no intention of being banded shut, meanwhile Intrepid fisherman attempts to persuade his frozen fingers to open reluctant elastic band wide enough to go over lashing claw. This has a 30% chance of success first time and can result in angry Lobster ejecting said claw thus reducing the market value and increasing skippers obscenities.
This is another little known fact about the Lobster, when trapped or alarmed it can, and will, throw off one or both of it's claws in a self defence maneuver which defies belief, on the up side the lobster will grow a completely new limb to replace the sacrificed one within a few months. Lobsters also grow, in much the same way as snakes, by annually shedding their shells. It is not unusual to find a complete and perfect lobster in your creel with no-one home! Of course this can also be due to the incredible eating habits of the common Octopus which can suck a Lobster clean out of it's shell leaving Intrepid fisherman once again with an empty Lobster shell. And just one more important fact about lobsters, they swim backwards! so if you are sneaking up behind one in the sea, beware, you will receive a nasty thump in the face as frantic Lobster takes off at extremely high velocity into your face possibly leaving a claw or two behind, it is not a good idea to try and frighten Lobsters.
Once the catch has been wrestled to submission and sorted into the various species to be sold, they are then transferred to keep pots, which are usually just creels with the entrance sown up and a second layer of small mesh net to deter small predators. The lobsters and crabs live quite successful in these pots filter feeding from the water until such times as the market time comes round. Many fishermen store the Lobsters for long periods to wait for seasonal trends in the market to come around, i.e. at Christmas the price of lobster more than doubles.
And that is about it, as quick a resume of catching lobsters as I can muster. I hope you feel better informed now and also hope that you will never try this as a way of life. As a day out it's great to see what can be found in a Lobster creel but as a way of life?? ( Apologies to all Lobster fishermen Including my Father :-))
Last updated Aug 2000