One pastime that combines elements of fishing, hunting and scuba diving all into one package is lobster diving, and Southern California is a prime territory for catching the California spiny lobster. At the end of a successful dive, a diver has not just been on an underwater adventure, but has a tasty catch of expensive seafood to boot. However, before a California diver can set out in pursuit of lobsters, he must be aware of the regulations and the technical requirements of lobster diving.
Diving Area and Time Frame
Lobsters are commonplace along the Southern California coast, in a strip extending from the Mexican border to Point Conception in Santa Barbara County. Because lobsters spend their days in hiding, they are mostly found around reefs, submerged rocks and around shipwrecks. Sandy bottoms are poor lobster hunting grounds. Also, lobsters are nocturnal. Despite the limited vision of a night diver, it is much easier to find lobsters at night than it is during the day, when they are tucked away in their often inaccessible hiding places.
The lobster season in Southern California typically runs from late September or early October to March. Diving to hunt lobsters requires a California fishing license, which must then be supplemented with the Ocean Enhancement Validation and the Spiny Lobster Report Card. Lobsters with a carapace, or head section, smaller than 3.25 inches must be thrown back. Finally, it is illegal to tamper with the lobster traps of commercial lobstermen.
Southern California's waters are cold in general, and lobster diving takes place from mid-autumn to early spring and at night, so a 5 mm or 6.5 mm wetsuit is required for exposure protection. Because most lobster diving is done at night, a diver needs at least one dive light. A mesh bag for holding the lobster catch is also required, and at least one person in every buddy team of two should have an underwater compass. Besides that, all the elements of a basic scuba kit are required, including regulator, mask, fins, buoyancy controller, weights and air cylinder.
Cruise as far above the bottom as water visibility permits and cover as much territory along the reef and/or among the rocks as possible. Search systematically, and when you see a lobster, swoop down on it as quickly as possible and pin it to the bottom by pushing your hand down on its abdomen or tail. Then scoop the lobster up and tuck it into your mesh bag. If a lobster gets away and into a crack or hole, do not reach into the hole after it, because those holes are often inhabited by sea urchins and moray eels.
- California Diving News; "Lobster Diving 101," Dale Sheckler; October 2006
- Diver Wire; "California Lobster Season Opens Saturday; SCUBA Safety Tips," Scott Jones; October 2009
- Pyscho Solo Diver; "The Secrets To A Successful Southern California Lobster Season;" September 2008
- Psycho Solo Diver: The Basics Of California Lobster Hunting On SCUBA;" August 26, 2008.
- California Dept. of Fish and Game: 2011 Sport Fishing Fees and Descriptions
- Dive Gear Reviews: Wetsuit Guide
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