Lobsters roam the ocean floor after hurricanes and no one knows why

Lobsters roam the ocean floor after hurricanes and no one knows why

Steve Waters

Special for the Miami Herald

Strong waves caused by Hurricane Nicole along the Atlantic coast of Florida will be lobster fishing this week.

After major storms rock the ocean, snorkelers and snorkelers look forward to a lobster ride when the sea calms and the water clears enough to see the crustaceans walking in line in the sand. Scientists aren’t sure why the lobsters, which are informally called “insects,” do this, but it’s a sight to behold when dozens of insects march north in formation in 8 to 20 feet of water offshore. local beaches.

Lobster expert Jim “Chiefy” Mathie said there was a major lobster march last month after Hurricane Ian made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast in late September. Turbulent waters caused by the storm led to a march that lasted two weeks according to Mathie, retired chief of the Deerfield Beach Fires Rescue Division and author of ‘Catching the Bug: The Complete Guide to Catching Spiny Lobster’ , which is available at South Florida dive shops and online at www.chiefy.net.

Given the choppy waves along the coast caused by Nicole, who passed through the area Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Mathie says he expects to see lobsters walking on Tuesday.

“It usually happens five days after a storm,” said Mathie, who will head out to sea in his boat to dive as soon as the sea calms down. “There’s a lot of cloudiness in the water, and when that clears up, you’ll be able to see the bugs walking.”

After a hurricane several years ago, Mathie and his friends went diving a few days after the storm and the water was so dirty he said the only way to know he was at the bottom was when he touched. Despite the poor visibility, he managed to shoot down a red grouper with his crossbow and one of his diving buddies caught a few lobsters.

Catching lobsters is much easier when they are walking. Divers can swim from the beach, search for the line of lobsters, and use a net or trap to catch their daily limit of six insects.

Mathie said during the walk after Hurricane Ian, the commercial lobster divers he knows simply sat on the bottom in the sand and waited for the lobsters to walk towards them. These divers easily caught their commercial daily limit of 250 insects.

What Mathie and his dive buddies like to do is check out the shallow spots off Deerfield Beach and Pompano Beach by having someone jump in the water with a diving mask, snorkel and flippers. Once the walking lobsters are located, Mathie’s crew will go to the bottom with their scuba tanks and select the six largest insects they see.

“After Ian we saw up to 100 lobsters walking in a line,” Mathie said. “When we took one or two, the line would break a bit and then there were like 20 walkers in line.”

He added that the biggest lobsters are usually at the top of the queue. Mathie also said that fishermen on fishing piers in the area have caught lobsters with hooks on their fishing lines, which is illegal.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law enforcement officers are on the water and on area beaches when the lobsters walk to make sure people follow the rules. Anyone catching lobsters must have a saltwater fishing license, which costs $17 for Florida residents, and a lobster license at $5.

Lobsters must have a minimum carapace length of more than 3 inches and must be measured in the water. Possession and use of a measuring device is required at all times. Lobsters must remain in good condition while in or on the water. No egg-bearing females can be captured.

Dive flags on boats should be at least 20 by 24 inches and have braces to keep the flags unfurled. Dive flags on floats for those snorkeling or diving off the beach should measure at least 12 by 12 inches. For all lobster regulations visit https://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/lobster.

Lobsters stop walking when they find new homes in the reefs and rock piles off South Florida. Mathie said it was not unusual then to find clusters of insects clustered under a ledge or coral head, making them almost as easy to catch as walking.

“They seem to be in a trance,” Mathie said. “It’s like they’re saying ‘Catch me, catch me.’ So we take the biggest one first and then work our way through them.

After getting a quick boundary, Mathie and his buddies grab their guns and hunt grouper and snapper. Sandy water stirred up by storms forces fish to head offshore. As the water clears, hungry fish return to the reefs, often as shallow as 30 to 50 feet.

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