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Lobsters Aren't Only Things in Hot Water

October 06, 2000|PETE THOMAS

There's no telling how many lobsters went into the pot last Saturday, the first day of open season, but at least one lobster diver did.

According to Giordan Hernandez, manager of Dive N' Surf in Redondo Beach, one of the scuba divers participating in the store's annual "Lobster Mobster" contest got sucked into an intake pipe at the Southern California Edison plant in El Segundo, ended up in a small pond within the facility and "from there he just climbed right out," Hernandez said.

Thousands of lobsters weren't so fortunate, of course, having found themselves in much hotter water, and with no way out.


The Lobster Mobster, in its 24th year, involved more than 200 participants vying for various store prizes. A 10.85-pound "bug" was the biggest, plucked by a diver who refused to disclose the location.

Similar contests were held throughout the Southland.

The real mobsters, however, were involved in another type of contest: disregard all lobster laws and hope you're not caught.

They were out in force during the dark hours last Saturday morning, taking lobsters that were too small, using illegal methods to catch them (the law says hands only) and taking more than the seven they were allowed, provided they possessed valid fishing licenses.

"We issued quite a few citations, mostly for short lobsters and also for snagging lobsters from piers and jetties," said Angel Raton, a lieutenant with the California Department of Fish and Game. "They use fishing poles and [baited] treble hooks, and usually when they snag 'em they take everything, even the shorts, so in a way they're double-dipping."

One poacher allegedly double-dipped from the King Harbor breakwater in Redondo Beach. Wardens spied from afar and made the collar in the parking lot as he was getting ready to drive away.

A cluster of lobsters was discovered in the back of his truck, carefully stashed in the catch-basin of his lawn mower.

"The suspect was not cooperative, so he was also cited for resisting a peace officer," Raton said.

As for the lobsters, they were spared a bubbling caldron in favor of the chilly Pacific, to which they were promptly returned.

"Basically, it was a pretty busy night as there were quite a few people out there chasing the lobsters," Raton said.

You can legally chase them through March 21.


Last Friday in this space was an item on white sharks wreaking havoc on the tuna bite at Guadalupe Island off Baja California. The same morning off Northern California, a large white shark savagely struck a surfer as he was paddling out at Maverick's near Half Moon Bay.

Miraculously, the surfer emerged unscathed, the shark having lifted him off the board with its snout before clamping down on fiberglass and foam. The surfer, a local named Peck Euwer, maintained his grasp and came down with his arm around the shark's head. The shark then slipped back under and chose not to come back for more.

"It was a spiritual life-changing event," Euwer said in an interview with Ryan Molde of the Half Moon Bay Review. "I hugged a shark. There's a reason for that. We totally touched. It's an incredibly unique once-in-a-lifetime event, to get that close and emerge unscathed."

The same day, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story on a company offering this once-in-a-lifetime chance to anyone interested, provided they come up with $400 on weekdays or $450 on weekends.

Lawrence Groth, a Bay Area tug boat operator who also runs Golden Gate Adventures, takes customers to the Farallon Islands 25 miles west of the famous bridge, where great whites congregate in the fall to feed on elephant seals.

Groth uses a seal-like decoy to attract them, and a steel cage to keep his clients safe. Unfortunately, however, visibility has been poor so far this season and Groth has not had much success with the cage aspect of his endeavor.

That's not to say that things haven't been interesting aboard his 32-foot vessel. During one recent outing, he and his clients heard an attack on a seal about a quarter of a mile away. "We heard this huge splash, turned and could see this bright red spot and flailing shark fins all around it," Groth said. "And then every bird on the island took off and headed over."

Groth said the initial attack, by an 18-footer, was followed by that of a smaller shark that scurried past his boat and "caused everyone to start screaming."

In seven trips this season, he said he has been skunked only once. "We've either had an investigation [by a shark on the decoy], an attack on the decoy or a natural feeding event," he said.

So successful has he been in this regard that his favorite decoy, a plywood-and-neoprene contraption named "Chewy," has been put on "permanent disability."


* Hot tuna: The yellowfin bite off the Orange County coast has gone from amazing to ridiculous. Even during an El Nino summer, yellowfin don't hang around this long, or so close.

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