Posted by: socalsalty | October 12, 2011

Trip Report: A Somewhat Dangerous Catch them up, YUM!

Monday night I went lobster hooping with Dan Hernandez.  I met Dan at his boat slip in Long Beach, and Dan introduced me to his buddy Don.   Since I was running out in rush hour traffic, I was late getting to the slip.  While they were waiting, Dan and Don had prepared 10 traps using salmon heads (oily meat is good to attract lobster) as bait.  I’d get to find out later the penalty for being late 😉

As we headed out of the marina into the harbor, we were greeted with a beautiful sunset.  Dan and Don traded stories of the biggest bugs (lobsters) they had caught, and I just listened and enjoyed the friendly banter.  Don commercially fishes halibut for local Asian restaurants and also runs the bait concession at Belmont Pier in Long Beach.  You can now buy live bait from the snack shack on the pier thanks to Don!  If you are so inclined, he’s selling the salmon heads there as well.  For boaters, there are spaces to park your boat at the pier too, so it’s a nice resource for both pier and boat anglers.

Awesome sunset as we left the marina

We proceeded out to Don’s secret lobster spot.  Shortly after dark we dropped traps.  Once we dropped all ten, we waited around for for 15 or 20 min and then we…that is I (the late penalty)…started pulling them up.  Dan and Don advised that once you started a pull, keep pulling quickly and don’t stop.  You want to keep the downward pressure on the bugs and not let them escape the trap.  In that first set, we managed to pull up one legal lobster.  We stayed at that spot for awhile, but we only got one more short, some spider crabs, octopus, and a lot of starfish.  We threw it all back.

From there, we moved spots and encountered some other hoopers.  They weren’t aggro or anything, but I always get a kick out of the little dance that fishermen do.  “Catch anything?” Few, what about you?  Couple. This spot?  Right in this spot.   Whatcha usin?  Salmon heads.  Us too.  Alright, good luck to ya.  Yeah, you too.  What’s actually true or not in that exchange is up for debate.

In that spot we pulled a couple shorts, but that was it.  In the process we lost 3 bait cages as we had a sea lion tailing us around the whole time.  (Note – you want to use the metal bait cages vs the net type ones.  Sea lions will bite right thru the soft ones.  Also, secure them tightly to the trap with a couple zip ties)  At one point, on the drop, he took the whole lobster hoop and ran with it.  Damn seals.  In general though, it was a pretty serene night.  Not too cold.  Pretty calm sea.  Big full moon to light the proceedings.  Don mentioned that in general, a full moon isn’t good for lobster hooping and that seemed to be the case.  But since it was such a nice night and this was a new experience, it didn’t bother me.  I joked that this was the “Not So Dangerous Catch”.  More on that tip later.

Ok, this is what I want you to do...

We moved to one more spot, down to 7 traps.  It was getting late, so we decided to set and only do one more pull before calling it a night.  In this last set, we didn’t get any bugs, but we managed to get a nice sized stone crab.  Dan asked if I wanted to take it and I said sure.  With all the traps in, we headed back to his slip and what should have been an uneventful end to the night.  When we got in, after stowing the gear, I waited for the bait tank to drain, so I could grab the lobster and crab out of it.  Dan warned me to be careful as the lobsters are deceptively quick and the crab’s pinch was unforgiving.  He was right.  It was surprising how slippery that bug was even after the water was drained out.  I carefully picked up the lobster first and firmly held him with my left hand.  With my right, I gingerly picked up the crab, trying to do so across the top of his shell so that his claws couldn’t pinch me.  I thought I had a good grip on both of them and proceeded to lift them out.

This is when things went sideways.  I proceeded down the slip when a sharp pain shot through my right thumb.  OWWW!  I dropped the lobster and he hit the deck.  I scrambled to my knees to try and keep him from going over the edge.  I briefly caught up with him, trapping him with the crab that was attached to my thumb.  At that point, the crab latched onto my other thumb and the lobster shook himself loose scooting back into the water.  Meanwhile, I held up both hands to see blood streaming from my right hand and the crab mocking me as he held both of my thumbs.  I slumped over the side of Dan’s boat, crab attached and shook him off me.  Blood pumped out of my right thumb, as I cursed the crab and the loss of the lobster.  Damn you crab!  “I told you Joe”, Dan said.  I’ll be more careful handling crustaceans in the future.  ‘Til then, I’m going to really enjoy eating that damn crab.  Tight lines.

Thumb wounded. Ego wounded worse.



  1. Great post Salty! Your story telling has me feeling like I was there with you guys. I’ve got a few scars from Dungenous crabs in Oregon, and don’t forget my famous bat ray photo incident. That one still gives me chills.

    • Something about these trips with you and Dan. Hmmmmm

  2. I don’t mean to laugh at your misfortune, but picturing that scene (crab on two thumbs watching the lobster escape) cracked me up.

    Great post as usual.

    • No worries Charlie. It was funny…not so much at the time, but definitely with a little time removed from it. My kids laughed at me too, so what can you do? I get my revenge tonight when I eat him! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. LOL – if you are too slow , buy a pair of these 🙂

    • Someday I’ll fish with you and get you back Mann 😉

      • I’m not kidding 🙂 Lots of people use salad tongs for blue crabs out here. Smaller blue crabs are just wide enough to pinch your thumb and pinky. Devious ba$t@rds. Definitely use the tongs or a leather glove for sorting and cleaning out a tank

        I feel your pain dude. I had a crab get me at VA Beach a few years back.

  4. You should have fallen on the crab and the lobster effectively killing them both.

  5. What kind of salmon is that. It better not be my king 😉

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