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Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Night a Lobster Tried to Kill Me

Those of you who know me personally have probably heard this story.  Either way, in the interest of being jolly and having a good laugh I'll tell it here for those who haven't heard it.  

One of the things that my old dive partner, Donna, and I used to love doing was going hunting for lobster during Southern California's lobster season.  It's something you can't do any longer as they've closed the season in recent years due to over fishing.  There was a time though where on any given night, you could pack up your dive lights, throw your gear in the trunk and go out for a nice long swim in the dark with an option to bring back some extremely fresh dinner.

Now, most Americans think that lobsters are slow.  That's because many of us only see them in tanks at seafood restaurants, however if those same animals are in the open ocean it's a different story.  That tail that everyone loves to eat is actually one giant muscle and when it contracts, a lobster zooms out of sight sometimes faster than you can follow.  If you don't believe me, check out this video showing a lobster swimming away from the clutches of a diver.

Now what you see in that video is exactly what Donna and I used to do.  The whole process of hunting lobsters involves being deceptive and quick.  First you sneak up on it by shining your light away from its eyes but near enough that you can still see what it's doing.  If you shine your lights directly on a lobster around here, nine times out of ten it will bolt right away.  However if it thinks you're looking somewhere else it may stick around.  

Then, once you get close enough to it, you have to very quickly grab it and the trick is you have to pin its tail down so it can't contract that muscle and shoot away.  It takes some practice to get it down but once you do, you find you can catch them almost every time.  When Donna and I would go out, we both had measuring devices on our lights so we could easily grab a lobster, check its size with one hand and then either bag it or let it go with the other.  

That's exactly what we were doing the night a lobster tried to kill me.  See, we were diving off the southern end of Laguna Beach in an area with a lot of small rocks and grass.  It was a good night.  The water was clear and there was a bright moon.  As usual, we had the whole place to ourselves.  As I recall it was December or January so most people were scared away by the cold.  We'd happened on a few lobsters but all of them had been undersized so we released them.  

As we came up on the next patch of grass, Donna spotted one standing stock still and trying not to grab our attention.  She maneuvered close to it and quickly got hold of it.  Once she had it secure, she dropped to her knees on the bottom and got the measuring device on it to check the size.  I had come up to the right of her and let myself settle to the bottom on the sand.  She looked up at me, shook her head "no" to tell me it was too small and then released it as she turned to go look for more. 

As it shot away, it hit me...

directly in the balls. 

The immediate urge to spit out my regulator and scream was thwarted only by my jaw clenching in pain.  Tears came to my eyes.  My stomach clenched up in agony.  Meanwhile, Donna was moving on.  There I was doubled over thirty feet below the surface and she was looking for more lobster.  She hadn't seen any of it.

In the end, I caught up with her and we continued the hunt but came up empty-handed.  Looking back on it all, I can't really do anything but laugh about it.  Score one for little guy, right?  However, I'd kill to see a video of it.  I'm sure it would have been a YouTube sensation.

If you're looking for something that's more fun than being hit in the genitals by a wild animal, you should check out my book The Wash.  In fact, there's a scene where someone gets hit in the nuts with a frying pan.  I know you were wondering how I was going to tie this post back to my book.  I've got mad skills.


Lisanne Harrington said...

Oh, Cary, you crack me up! I would actually like to see that video, too.

But seriously, I didn't even know there were lobsters off our beaches. Or that they could swim that fast!

And that frying pan scene did make me giggle a bit... :D

Anonymous said...

My frozen seafood shopping at Trader Joe's has been forever ruined. For the last three trips I have cringed every time I look at the two pack of lobster tails.