Ken’s Lobster Diving Tips
For starters, everyone gets skunked catching bugs from time to time and just because the limit is 7 it may take lots of diving in a day to get your limit, but then you just may find a glory hole and get your limit in 15 minutes.
Everyone has there own ideas, theories and things that work well for them and I tried to categorize what seems to have worked well for me.
Physical and mental attitude-For the most part the only way to catch bugs is to swim fast and cover ground and that requires a level of physical fitness. Also, a good mental attitude is good to have, especially when you get skunked. Let’s face it; diving is supposed to be fun. Being physically fit also includes where to dive.
Where to dive-I find that usually the best place to look and find bugs is where everyone else isn’t. That could include a long walk down the beach to some outer reef or scrambling down rocks to get to the areas were most divers don’t go. Kayaks are also a great way to get to less visited dive sites. Kayaks can be more work, but then everything we do has trade offs.
Protection suits-One thing is for sure you will know a serious bug diver by the battle scars on their suit so make sure you have some extra Aqua Seal and neoprene glue on hand for the repairs you will need to do. Some divers will use drysuits when hunting for bugs and I perfer my wetsuit, it gives me much more mobility. I highly recommend knee pads (I made my own from and old wetsuit) and gloves with some type of coating like Kevlar. Some people like garden gloves and thin gloves, but I like 5-7mm gloves. Whatever you use DO NOT use your bare hands-you not only will end up with bloody hands, but you could get a bad infection.
Solo diving-Solo diving is not for everyone and DO NOT take solo diving to light heartily. A lot of my bug diving becomes solo diving or “same ocean buddy diving”, but I am prepared for it. As in any diving and more so in solo diving you must be extremely comfortable in the water with your gear, have excellent diving skills and training, be prepared for emergencies (thinking ahead), be extra cautious and leave yourself an extra margin of safety. You must also respect Mother Ocean and know when to say “NO”.
-Again, solo diving is not for everyone and then add it to night diving and not only can it can get downright scary, it could also be your last dive.
Day or night-I have been lucky to do well diving both day and night for bugs and a lot depends on the planning. Night dives are fun when the conditions are good, otherwise they can be downright scary. Night dives do require some extra gear such as a primary light, backup light and a small chemical light or substitute to hook to your snorkel or tank valve.
What I like is a bright primary Led light that I have attached to my BC by a homemade 18’-24’ lanyard. I have tried retractors and after a while the tension from the retractor gets my arm tired. I like the lanyard much better and then when I let it go of the light I have a small light attached to my mask strap to see the bugs. I have also found the use of a Bug Buddy (a gauge mounted to the front of the light) extremely useful when diving at night.
Equipment and bug gear-The first thing is to make sure all your equipment (BC, regulators, hoses, etc.) is in good working order. You will need a bag to put your bugs into and when diving off a boat and doing multiple dives two bags works best. This way you can use one bag for holding and one for catching the bugs. I have tried many different bags and for many reasons I have found the punch bag the best one for me, just make sure you have zipped the bottom zipper. I also like to attach a bug gauge to the bag with some bungee cord and I attach my bag to my BC. Some people like to hold there bags while diving, so it is all personal preference.
How to catch bugs-If your diving from a boat, be the first to jump in and swim like hell. Bugs like rocky areas with holes to hide in. Swim looking for their antennas. Don’t waste time looking into every hole, when you see one bug look around because there are usually more in the same area. After lots of bug diving you might develop bugar (bug radar) and finding them will become easier.
When you find one, swoop down, grab it (pinning them against something also works well) and show it whose boss. Don’t be gentle, too many people lose their bugs because there afraid they might hurt it and when they loosen there grip the bug gets away. I always thought it was funny that they don’t want to hurt it, but yet they are going to kill it and eat it.
Don’t be greedy, when I try to grab two at a time I always end up with none.
There are many more tips for catching bugs and the best way to learn them is to come out on a Channel Islands Dive Adventures bug trip.
Conservation-If you must catch a big bug then take it back to the boat, take a picture of it and then return it back to the bottom and let it go. Also, don’t take the females with eggs. Some people will take only the males and not the females, but as they say “it takes two to tango”. Just remember that lobsters are not an unlimited resource and unless we all help to mange the resource it could disappear.
The one main thing I always think of when bug diving is something a friend told me a long time ago-go after the bugs with “Reckless Abandonment” and he was right. The only time I don’t is when there are lots of urchins around. Another thing I like is deeper dives, drift dives and using nitrox. Anything you can do to increase your chance of catching bugs can be good.
Now you’re probably wondering where I like to go for bugs or where my secret spots are. I don’t really have any secret spots, but my best ever bug catching days have been at Naples Reef (Santa Barbara), Deep Hole area (AKA-CIDA Neptune’s outer coastal reefs) and San Nick/Santa Barbara islands. I have also had a few good days beach diving, but not many.
The biggest tip I can give is to get out and dive places harder to get to (not places like Deer Creek) and don’t forget to get you fishing license and lobster report card.