Catalina Island News

Clap On, Clap Off!

Afishinados Charters

Seasons change almost imperceptibly on Catalina Island.  Nobody really notices the transition from fall to winter, or winter to spring since very few people are actually here.  The transition from spring to summer is herded in on the longest day.  But fall is different, it just seems to arrive.

Fall is officially here.  You can feel it even with the still summer-like weather we are having.  The angle of the sun changes, evenings arrive sooner and there is just a hint of chill in the night air.  This is a nice time of year, but it needs a brand.

Brands build awareness and define the essence of an event or product thus helping to separate it from other offerings.  Think Volvo and you think Safety…BMW is synonymous with the Thrill of Driving…Mercedes Benz is all about Engineering, and Ford is still building their Reliability brand.

A successful campaign will bring the product to mind with a simple line.  See if you can identify these products from their slogans:

  1. Which smokers would rather ‘fight than switch’?
  2. ‘Nothing outlasts’ which battery?
  3. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz oh what a relief it is?
  4. And of course we all know ‘what melts in your mouth, not in your hands’.

The brand I would suggest for fall is the Clapper, since this is the sound that confirms you have a net full of lobster even before you can see them.  ‘Clap on, clap off.’

All of these thoughts came to mind Saturday night.  It was opening day for the 2017-2018 Lobster Season and we were booked on Gusto for a group of 4 guys.  I was pretty excited to see what this season would bring.

Although I do not see the best conditions developing for a huge haul of lobster this year, I was still excited to see how our new boat GUSTO would do at fishing lobster.

The layout of the boat is a big deal for fishing lobster.  Maybe the perfect set-up is the skiff since it allows the angler to get in very tight to shallow-water holding areas.  The down side is that skiffs are small, subject to weather and not very suitable for chartering.

Bigger boats can hoop-net, but there are limitations.  A boat too large would be unsafe in shallow water, is more difficult to maneuver over the pick-up floats and generally suffers from a visibility issue at the helm (it is difficult to line up the float without running over it).

This year we have a new 30’ boat, GUSTO, and I spent a considerable amount of time dialing her in for hoop-netting.  We bought a full set of new nets, line, floats and bait cages.  I then set about designing a pick-up stick that would ease the visibility issue.

A pick-up stick has to carry a float, must be weighted to stand upright in the water, needs a method for carrying a light stick and an attachment point for the line that is connected to the hoop net.  More than that, at least for our purposes, the pick-up stick and related gear needs to fit within the storage limitations of the boat since we might be fishing in the day time and then hooping at night.

You never really know how the system will work out until you try it under real conditions, so I was hoping for the best as we picked up our first hoop net charter for the year.

The pick-up sticks worked out really well.  We, and anyone else on the water, could easily see the location of our nets as the sticks bobbed in the swell.  The bug-a-boo was our line management.

When hooping, it is ideal to set your nets at certain depths without limiting them for use at other depths.  We were fishing in 20 feet of water, but our nets were outfitted with 35’ (4 nets) and 75’ (6 nets) of line.

Pulling nets from a vertical position is ideal, so it is important to manage this extra line.  Since it floats it can easily get into the props; yours or some boat passing by.

There are a number of strategies to manage this extra line.  Some guys use weights that hold the extra line vertically to the main line.  These weights are dangerous.  When customers pull traps, they do so with an urgency and this effort can bring weights flying into the boat.  Not good for the gel coat or a forehead.

The night started very slowly as we pulled the first three nets to hear the sound of nothing.  No clapping.  Bummer.  On the fourth net we heard the rather pathetic sound of one-hand clapping with a single undersized lobster in the net.  Double bummer.

Slowly we began getting more bugs into the net, at one point pulling up six in one haul, but most were too small to be legal by a fraction.  We had to measure a number of bugs multiple times before deciding to harvest or return to the sea.

At night’s end we had measured and returned 49 lobster, keeping three legals.  But it was the final net that set the stage for another night, just as a great shot on the 18th hole can change the day.

As the last net came to the surface in the dark I could hear a standing ovation of clappers.  We got 17 bugs in the final pull…Clap On!

By Capt. John
Capt. John runs Afishinados Charters and Catallac Tours – 888-613-7770 –