This past week, I heard on a radio show broadcast that a lobster roll (or is it “lobsta”) at Fenway Park is now up to $28, which along with your $12 beer, makes lunch at the Red Sox iconic park for one 40 bucks. Yikes! I’ve been there and done that a few years ago but NOT at the $28 “lobsta” price tag. So, what gives?
It’s a typical supply-and-demand problem. This year, the “lobsta” harvest is at a low point, so it’s a supply problem. So, what gives? Overfishing? Environmental factors like water temperatures or storms? A cyclical problem where there are just less lobsters available and will rebound in the near future? Or some or all of the above!
I recently finished reading a book penned by journalist Trevor Corson, born in Boston, raised in Washington, D.C., spending his boyhood summers on Little Cranberry Island, nestled along the coast of Maine in the Gulf of Maine which has a rich history of lobster fishing.
The book is entitled “The Secret Life of Lobsters,” and that’s no joke. There is more about the life cycle, including everything from sex lives and reproductive biology of the lobster, turf wars of and battles involved among male lobsters, forage and growth and the intricacies of harvest and regulation of the species we call Homarus americanus.
Corson, who actually worked as a lobsterman for two years, has taken on the task of explaining the likes and loves of the Homarus americanus from the viewpoint of families on Little Cranberry Island and its surrounds, the lobster themselves, the governmental agencies that regulate their harvest and the scientists who are trying to help unravel the complexity of their secret lives.
Over the years, there have always been lean and abundant times for the lobster fishermen. In fact, just a few years ago, abundance was the norm, and now we are in a down year.
The lobstermen and women have learned a lot over the years and taken care to conserve the resource, but they don’t know everything. The regulators know something about the life cycles of lobster abundance but certainly not everything, making it difficult to regulate when instituting catch and size restrictions of the lobster harvests. And the scientists have learned a lot about the life cycles of the lobster, but also have misconceptions, just as like fishermen and regulators.
On top of this, many traditional lobstermen distrust the “Ivy League” scientists. The regulators, likewise, are wary of the outsider scientists, and as in most instances, the industry and regulators are traditionally at odds. Corson beautifully gives us insights into these natural conflicts and presents us the efforts of scientists to understand the finer points of this economically important species to help both sides have some level of confidence in the researchers to eventually agree on ways based on science, not just rumor or intuition, to manage the lobsters.
To do this, a group of scientists did studies in laboratory cages to tease out the mating behavior of lobsters and surprisingly found out the shedding females are the ones to select their mates, and discovered rigors of turf wars between dominant and non-dominant males. Lobsters have long lives with females, maturing at 7 years of age and can live a couple of decades since they have a very complex society as it turns out.
The scientists also expanded their studies out of the research lab tanks to the open ocean “field” to more naturally explore how lobsters interact, move around seasonally and survive the wilds from predators like the codfish, being a primary one for the adult lobster. Scientists were also able to discover areas in the warmer shallows where the larval and baby lobsters grow, an important cog in seasonal fluctuations of lobster abundances.
So, if you like to partake of Homarus americanus at home, the restaurant or Fenway Park, or you are just curious enough to wonder about the secret life of the lobster, I recommend “The Secret Life of Lobsters” by Trevor Carson. Humor and science, integrated with the real residents of Little Cranberry Island, make this a winner.
All this causes me to reminisce. This book brought back memories of “Lester” the lobster, which we ate while camping in Cape May, N.J. one year. Aand then there was the indelible scene in the movie “Annie Hall” with Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and Annie (Dianne Keaton) trying to handle and cook their lobster for dinner.
So, this past week of fishing again was up and down. Recently, we’ve had surf temperatures of 77 degrees with some 80- to 90-degree days, and as I write this report, nighttime temperatures here in Emerald Isle drifted into the 50s, and surf temperatures have dipped back down to the low 70s.
And then there was the wind, again the wind! The pattern this year is that the Beaufort Inlet side of the island has had better catches than the Bogue Inlet/ocean beaches. Rough surf, minimal appearance of bait, whatever, it’s been very disappointing.
This time of year, I often get my tootsies nipped by Oreo-size lady crabs with a spring run of reds on the beach. Not so thus far in 2021. However, I have heard of some nice sea mullet catches at night from the surf.
One thing to check out and base expectations on is the ocean pier catches, which are indicative of what is running along the beach. The piers are reporting Spanish mackerel, blues to 11 pounds, pompano, sea mullet, gray trout and a bunch of mostly small flounder.
Oceanana Pier has also reported catches of black drum, whereas Bogue Inlet Pier has had only scattered catches of red and black drum. Of course, Oceanana pier is just around the corner from the very productive deep water and multi-structured Morehead City Port turning basin, holding just about everything for your catching pleasure. And don’t forget the seemingly abundant flounder.
Out of the three “Bs” – Bogue, Beaufort and Barden inlets – there are good catches of blues, Spanish, and yes, kings up to 30 pounds. At Cape Lookout and the bight around Barden, catches of cobia are up to 60 pounds.
The Highway 24 creeks have plenty of bait, but I haven’t seen much else. One day, I fished at Emerald Isle Woods and struck out trying to topwater for reds, so I went to plastic shrimp and ran into some flounder, one I lost that was drag runner. I also missed several hits and released a 14-inch flattie. I hope they are still there in August/September when regulations permit catching and keeping.
Other inside marsh locations from the Haystacks to Middle Marshes to Swansboro are producing topwater reds and some specks too. If you have never done topwater, this is the year to try. You won’t regret the effort. There are many to choose from – Top Dogs, Skitterwalks, Heddon Spooks and Badonkadonks…they all work, and the color is irrelevant. All the fish see is a silhouette on the surface.
In the New and Neuse rivers, specks and reds are also doing well, and good catches of sheepshead are being weighed in if you fish bridges and other hard structure.
So how about ocean piers?
Oceanana Pier reports a good week with Spanish, blues, mullet, pigfish and croakers.
Bogue Inlet Pier has had a good week of variety with big sea mullet on sand fleas, blues to 11 pounds, Spanish, pigfish, grays, sheepshead a barracuda sniffing, a 15-pound king and some big pompano. A friend from the Fairfield Harbor Fishing Club, while on an outing with the club, landed what I guess was a 3-pound pompano caught on a piece of crab.
Seaview Pier reports blues and Spanish, barracudas sighted, and a 20-pound king.
Surf City Pier decked seven kings last week, along with Spanish, blues flounder, spots pompano and croaker.
Jolly Roger Pier has had a few kings, along with Spanish and blues early and late in the day, along with black drum, a few pompano and specks.
Offshore, the wahoo, tunas and mahi are holding up when the wind allows and at the usual locations from Big Rock to Swansboro Hole. Looks like an excellent mahi year.
FYI for the boaters out there: The Coast Guard is scheduled to make major changes to waterways near Shackleford Banks and Harker’s Island.
Check this out at https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDHSCG/bulletins/2da7be3.
2) "Ask Dr. Bogus" is on the radio every Monday at 7:30 a.m. WTKF 107.1 FM and 1240 AM. The show is also replayed on Sunday morning at 6 a.m. Callers may reach me at 800-818-2255.
3) I’m located at 118 Conch Ct. in Sea Dunes, just off Coast Guard Road, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. The mailing address is P.O. Box 5225, Emerald Isle, NC 28594. Don’t forget a gift certificate for your favorite angler for fishing lessons or my totally Bogus Fishing Report subscription. Please stop by at any time and say “Hi” or call 252-354-4905.