Another great thing about vacationing on Cape Cod is that our in-laws live there. That’s good, I swear. They can often be found feeding us, distracting our kids so that we can pass out somewhere, and driving us around on their boat.
Grandpa P has a Boston whaler that they dock in their backyard, which happens to back into Nauset Marsh as it funnels into Town Cove in Orleans. It’s a good spot to catch lobsters, among other things. Last week, GP took Husband, the preschooler, and I out to check his lobster traps.
The traps, which sink to the bottom, are attached to a long rope and a buoy that floats on the water’s surface. In addition to keeping the rope from sinking out of reach, the buoys help to remind you where the hell you dropped your traps, as well as which ones are yours. All of your buoys have the same color scheme (and are registered with the State) to differentiate yours from your neighbors'.
Your boat should also have a matching buoy on-board to show you’re not stealing someone else’s catch. And, yes, lobster theft does happen. GP’s color scheme is half green, half white. This one isn’t ours.
(Don’t worry, Mr. Fancy Stripes, we got our lobsters fair and square.)
The traps are large, wire cages with two compartments: the bait chamber where a mesh bag containing tasty treats hangs (GP uses herring for bait), and the parlor chamber where the lobster eventually gets trapped while chowing down. You leave the traps for a few days or a week, and then check to see if you caught anything.
Sometimes, traps get lost. If this should happen, there’s an escape hatch built into the trap that is fastened by iron rings. Over time, the rings rust and fall apart, allowing any trapped lobsters or other sea creatures to escape.
Hoisting up the traps requires some serious muscle.
We just sat back and let GP do all the work.
Sometimes the traps come up empty, but sometimes they don’t. Woo hoo!
You need to check the size of each lobster to make sure it’s large enough to keep. You measure from the back of the eye socket to the end of the carapace (the body shell, which is separate from the tail), which needs to be at least 3-3/8 inches long.
Throwing the young ones and any females with eggs back into the water gives the lobsters a fighting chance against otherwise certain extinction. Here’s a little one walking the plank.
Bye-bye, baby lobster. See you next year. (Eat your sea spinach.)
For the keepers, a thick rubber band around each claw is always a good idea.
Most lobstermen wear gloves, but GP is a badass.
Along with any lobsters, there might also be a few crabs, starfish, maybe a giant snail. There was a large flounder in one of the traps a few years back. It was delicious. (I’m not kidding.) This one pulled up a mother load of mussels.
Guess who got to bring some of them home? Once you empty the traps, you bait them up, and drop them down again.
It’s purty out here.
Three keepers and a bunch of mussels out of four traps. Not a bad day out.