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Jim White Hoop-Netts California Spiny Lobsters

I pulled a unique double recently, and the two activities can only be done in the winter in San Diego. I mean, where else can you play 18 holes at Torrey Pines Golf Course, and then go hoop-netting for spiny lobsters in the evening?

The golf was predictably average for the 10-handicaper I am. But we did have an early tee time, hitting off the first tee as the moon set over the glistening Pacific Ocean. As day broke, we enjoyed incredible weather with the temperature eventually reaching into the 70′s by mid-morning. This is February in San Diego.

Much less predictable than my score on the green is the fishing. And despite a challenging tide that night, the conditions were very good for what some call “red gold,” California’s spiny lobsters. “We depend on Mother Nature out here, folks,” said Capt. Chuck Taft as he steered his sport boat, the Alicia, to the lobster grounds in San Diego Bay. “We depend on the tide and the lobsters. Tonight, we have a very tough tide, a King tide, the highest of the season. There’s a nearly full moon, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

The process of catching these sea critters is simple, thanks to the way Taft and Caslin have the boat set up. They do the bulk of the work, setting the baited hoop nets in a line as the night begins. That nearly full moon I saw over Torrey Pines earlier in the day now was rising in the east over the San Diego skyline. That’s the bonus of these evening trips, it’s a San Diego you don’t see anywhere else but right there in the Big Bay.

But the real bonus is the catch, tasty lobsters that you can take with you and either tail them and freeze to take home in a small cooler, or make a deal with the hotel where you’re staying to get them cooked up. Hooping for lobsters is about as much fun as you can have on the water off of San Diego.

Our group kept 22 lobsters for the night, but we caught and released four to five times that many because they were undersized after Caslin measured them. It takes lobsters six to seven years to grow to legal size, so the 80 to 100 or so that we released will live to grow bigger.

Tell us in the comments below, where is your favorite place to go fishing in San Diego…

Cost and Other Information

  • What: Hoop-netting California spiny lobsters aboard a sport boat out of Point Loma. Lobsters average around 1¼ pounds, but 5- to 9-pounders have been caught.
  • Location: San Diego Bay, Zuniga Jetty, usually flat-calm water.
  • Cost: $55 per hoop, but boats are limited to 10 hoops. A California fishing license is required. Cost is $14.40 for a one-day license and $9.21 for a Lobster Report Card that is good until December 31. Food and drinks – hamburgers, soda, beer, water and chips and candy bars – on the boat are extra. Trips leave at 7:00 pm and return around 1:00 am, depending on the fishing.
  • What to bring: Small cooler for lobsters. Good pair of waterproof gloves. Warm clothes for the cooler temperatures over the water at night. Camera to take shots of the San Diego Skyline from the Big Bay and of the lobsters.

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