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Lobsters: Gump, The Internet, and Hypocrisy—

Posted by Ken Jones
on May-3-08 6:28pm

Date: October 5, 2005
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompfa ben
Subject: Lobsters: Gump, The Internet, and Hypocrisy

I’ve been reading a lot on various message boards about the opening of lobster season. It seems that–with few exceptions–people hooping and diving from a variety of platforms have found the local lobster population to be nonexistent. Only a few folks found them during opening weekend, and most of them went to the Channel Islands to get them.
I feel like a frustrated Forrest Gump, lamenting to Lt. Dan Taylor: “No shrimp!” If you recall the movie, you might remember that it was not until the rest of the local shrimping fleet was wiped out did the BubbaGump Shrimp Corp. become profitable.
Perhaps there’s a lesson here, perhaps not. I’ve seen various arguments lately, each trying to explain the “missing” lobsters. Some claim that the red tide is to blame. Others have suggested that this is part of a cycle, and that like the tides, the nearshore population of lobsters ebbs and flows. Many believe the commercial pressure on local bug stones in deeper water has had a trickle-down effect on the nearshore stocks. Perhaps people ARE catching them, but just being tight-lipped about it? Still others have suggested that the Internet is to blame: the immediate availability of information, the reach of information about certain spots (piers, for example), and the popularization of hooping and diving on message boards have all contributed to the reduced number of lobsters along the coast.
I don’t know which of the above (or combination thereof) it is. A few people have asked me, and, suffice to say, I’m no marine biologist. Speaking anecdotally, there seems to be a lot more people hooping for what seems to be a lot fewer lobsters, at least locally. Mind you, I don’t have empirical data to back this up. I do not have commercial catch records (do they matter anyway?). I just have my hooping logs, a few photos from bugs-gone-by, a hunch or two, a few carapaces hanging from the ceiling of my classroom from seasons passed, …and empty hoops in 2005.
Will they come back? Who knows? (The two lobsters caught and posted below do not a season make…but it is nice to see…even though I heard that there were “hundreds” of hoops in the water at that location for the opener.) The bonito showed in force last year along the coast, but this year, there have only been a few flurries of bonito–and most of that at Catalina. A tonnage of lizardfish seems to have taken residence in 5 to 30 feet of water all along the coast from SLO to TJ. The kayak guys have had one of the slowest years for nearshore halibut in several years. The sand bass made a showing on the Huntington Flats that was later, shorter, and weaker than any in memory. Plenty of bait…and nothing to show for it but dogfish.
What does all this mean? Again…I don’t know. Recently, the question of giving up specifics on a spot–only to see it get heavy pressure, trash, and the like–came up again on this board (again). Similarly themed rants appear on other boards with regularity, notably one recently regarding lobsters, and how the “Internet has ruined hooping.” I’m aware of the irony in that statement vis a vis the medium used to forward that message… It’s like sitting alone in a Chevy Suburban on a gridlocked I-5 while complaining about traffic and air pollution.
Which is to say: “Enter hypocrisy.” I’ve certainly put up my share of lobster reports. I’ve done my part to promote hooping on piers, and Lord knows I will probably make a consistent effort to find a random lobster out there as the season progresses. But (here’s the big BUT) I’m questioning if it is ethical to post reports about “a lobster” caught from a given pier, knowing that the resident population of lobsters at that pier will likely not be able to handle the increased hooping pressure caused by the post? In other words, NO ONE has really connected yet. If someone gets a limit at Oceanside—and posts pictures and the specifics—I wonder how much that influences people to go to that spot. Is there a measurable adverse affect on the resident population? Is it a ding from which the population can recover? I don’t know.
I’m not looking for criticism or compliments, as much as I may deserve both or either. I’m curious to read others’ thoughts regarding this issue of specifics vs. generalities. Unlike a shoreline or a state park, it is a little tough to speak vaguely about a specific pier. Thanks for your time.


This is not a personal attack on anyone, and for the record, I encourage anyone who wants to try hooping to go have some fun. Call it stream-of-consciousness posting, or whatever. I’ve been mulling this idea since September, and have been hesitant to post a lot about hooping because of it.
If it is construed as such, then let it be me personally attacking myself. Continued good fishing/hooping to all.

Posted by Songslinger

Great Topic Title. The heading alone had me read, and the text fulfills it with more to spare.
I do not fish for lobsters or crabs. Had my fill of live Maine lobsters and Alaskan king crabs for a lifetime. Spoiled, you see.
However, I will say a couple things.
1) In your heart of hearts, if you feel that high impact is the result of shared information–e.g. posts–then you must lean towards the taciturn in order to preserve the species or habitat. This is a wonderful message board but it is also a rather largely populated one. In their eagerness to display their knowledge or in their willingness to help, people can be deleterious without realizing it. It’s our gregarious nature, a source of both joy and pain when it comes to ecology.
2) I’ve been reading reports from all over the Pacific Coast about species being less prevalent or, more to the point, fishing being unusually slow for the time of year. I’m not sure why this is so, but for some reason I doubt it’s a massive die-off of fish and/or crustaceans. A quaint but slightly tenable explanation is the one old-timers (God help me, I guess this applies to me now) are saying: “Things are just happening later this year.” You could attribute it to the weather cycles, possibly to Global Warming, or some weird glitch as our solar system races through the galaxy, but it’s premature to make any dire presumptions about permanence.
Even so, it is never too early or too late to be cautious and protect not only the interests of the environment, but also, perhaps selfishly, our own interests. One cannot enjoy the pursuit of fish or shellfish if there is no room to do so.

Posted by mtzion24

Excellent reading………..I had to break out the dictionary to look up a few words on yours and Songslinger’s post…….Ha…..true none the less………-Ramon

Posted by dcyclenut

Pertinent points all. I feel this topic pertains to the other species reported on, in these forums. I’m a relatively new surf fisherman and would like to see the fishery maintained. The question of the detrimental effects of the information provided in Internet fishing forums is an interesting one. But that goes to an argument that I came in on the tail end of on this forum and don’t want to rehash.:-(

Posted by toejamb

No harm done Dompfa. The lobsters are out there. I know because I dined on some bugs this afternoon, courtesy of a buddy who is a commercial diver. He dives in Santa Monica Bay, and hits all the obvious spots – the MDR breakwater, the various near-shore reefs etc., and he’s gotten his limit the last 4 or 5 times he was out. He tells me that some of the caves he dives into were swarming with the critters.
Perhaps it is a case of “10% of the anglers catching 90% of the fish” as Ronnie Kovach would say, and perhaps the 10 percenters are keeping tight lipped about their spots and methods. Even so, if all the 10 percenters became fruitful and multiplied, I still think, “Life finds a way”, to quote Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.
The responsible and conscientious dissemination of information is a good thing. When it comes from a great teacher, all the better. Keep it up Dompfa.
A postscript regarding the lobster feast this afternoon: As my buddy was boiling up the bugs for me and my co-workers, he noticed that one of the bugs slated for the Jacuzzi was laden with eggs. He asked me to release the gravid bug, which I did. She was driven to the MDR breakwater, where I released her. Hopefully, she will be fruitful and multiply.
Fish on, bug on. Toejamb

Posted by OB Pier Rat

It’s unfortunate but I believe it’s true that the wide distribution of information here MAY leads to overcrowding and over use of some our favorite fishing spots. Am I 100% sure? No. Does it in fact deplete the species and amount of fish available? Who knows, probably not? But I lean on the side of caution now, and I have two specific examples that have lead me to this:
Several years ago, when this board was much smaller, I would routinely advise anglers to try a spot at my home pier, my favorite spot. The first year I didn’t notice a change, but recent years I’ve noticed more and more pressure at that spot. Now that spot is very rarely open. Coincidence? Maybe, but again I’m leaning on the side of caution now.
I also reported on an opaleye hot spot near the OB pier a couple years ago. The following 4 weeks I went to that spot and found someone there every time, different people, and usually behind them was a large bucket with 3-4 dead opaleye floating belly up, some quite large. No report appeared on this board afterward, but I have to assume the information was obtained here. Maybe I’m wrong, possibly another coincidence. But I tend to believe otherwise. We’re talking the middle of February here, chilly wind blowing and cold surf spraying. Never in 30+ years of fishing that area had I seen people fishing that spot every Saturday for a month.
Unfortunately, for every active, conservative minded, information sharing member of this fine community we call PFIC, I believe there are 5 or 10 information sucking, trash leaving, regulation breaking morons, (AKA lurkers) who do not post here but use what they read here for their own selfish reasons. It’s too bad…

Posted by gordo grande

Two points I’d like to make:
1) If the information presented on the Internet (or elsewhere) leads to depleted stocks, why did we have such a good year last year? This board has been here for several years, yet last year we had a banner year for bonito, baitfish, lobster and other species.
2) Isn’t the popularity of Internet fishing sites just a manifestation of the general growth our sport is seeing up and down the coast? Every year I meet people who are new to the sport. Heck, I was new to the sport ten years ago. I think there are a lot of new people fishing, and they get their info from a variety of sources: TV, magazines, newspapers, and yes the Internet, including this board. I don’t think we can single out any one source as causing the problem.
JMHO. Don’t anyone flame me.
Gordo Grande, Support UPSAC!

Posted by jinmon

Quick “yeah, but…” Just wanted to point out that “lurking” is often the first step of participation on Internet message boards, and not a horrible evil in and of itself. If people weren’t meant to have access to this info without being obligated to contribute, they wouldn’t be able to read/search the archives without registering, yes?
-Julie (lurked for 2 weeks, and have my licenses, my gauges, my species field guide, pick up others’ trash and now post reports/comments – so nyeh. ;) And I wanna know where your opaleye spot is on OB Pier! ;) )
PS – about opaleye – talked to a guy who said he hadn’t seen any in a couple years. Is he just not looking, or are they less common now?

Posted by ob pier rat

Apology to lurkers. Now that I’ve heard from some current lurkers (via E-Mail) and former lurkers who didn’t really appreciate my classification of them, I want to clarify that not ALL lurkers are bad, just those who abuse the information they obtain here and adversely affect fishing for the rest of us (of which I still believe there is a large population) To those lurkers who clean up their fishing areas, follow the regs and promote the sport positively, I do apologize! Julie, I will be happy to share tips about fishing for opaleye in OB: just E-mail me at…

Posted by StripeSideChaser

There are definitely two types of lurkers…first is the new guy, lurks for a couple of weeks and then signs up and starts adding some sort of value to this site.
Unfortunately, there is a second type… the guy that just comes here to find out where the fishing is hot… runs down and claims his spot, and never does anything to add value back. I fish, therefore I lie!

Posted by Songslinger

Let’s Not Forget The Impact Of Cell Phones

Posted by StripeSideChaser

No kidding… btw Glenn, what’s your number? ;-)

Posted by Songslinger


Posted by StripeSideChaser

Cool, need to call about your sturgeon gaff

Posted by 2d

Not 1-888-KEEPALL?

Posted by Songslinger

That’s My Work Number

Posted by Ken Jones

Lurkers—A message board does of course allow people to choose their preferred method of participation. They can choose to be engaged directly by posting, sharing information, responding to threads, etc. Or, just as some people choose not to speak up in group discussions, people can choose to be silent and not post. That does not mean they are disengaged, it simply means they are not posting. We have over 8,000 up-to-date registered members on PFIC and it is quite obvious that the majority do not post on the board. Yes, I wish more of them would post but it is their choice. The main purpose of this board is educational and if they can watch and learn then that is O.K. with me. And remember, many of these “lurkers” once confident in their newly learned skills and techniques do indeed become “posters.”

Posted by jinmon

Re: Apology to lurkers. No harm no foul. :) I’ll email you sometime – I’d love to chat about catching those guys, heck, I just want to see one – the pix look neat! :) I won’t bug you to be too specific either. :) -Julie

Posted by 5focus

Two Words, RED TIDE.

Posted by epriemel

There were more people than usual tonight on a certain pier, Ben was there too.

Posted by dompfa ben

Darn tootin! Skunked, too. Not even a shortie :)

Posted by corbinaman1

Lots Of Potential Factors…Red-tide, cooler than normal water, overfishing, or possibly just the cyclical nature of fishing? Like others here, I do know that if you post an exact location of a fishing hot-spot, it gets overrun with crowds quickly so I tend to be general in my posts (unless at a pier of course).

Posted by StripeSideChaser

Easy way to find out how posting affects fishing. Go to San Clemente pier today! After the report yesterday, I wouldn’t be overly surprised to see the pier packed solid with hoops. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way, last year on my home pier (and that was just a striper post!) I won’t post exact locations anymore unless it’s an area that can’t be blown out (although I might post a beach report, so I can go see the beach looking like that pic from Japan, yesterday!) I fish, therefore I lie!

Posted by oldmanandthesea

Don’t cry too much. You sound like the little kid who says “I’m taking my ball and going home” If no one is catching bugs this season are you thinking they were fished out last season? I doubt it. Good year vs. bad year, like the surfers say “you shoulda been here yesterday dude”. As to the effect this board has, most of the reports are from people who got lucky or had no luck, sure if someone catches a gangsta and posts about it the next day there will be more people fishing that spot but when they don’t catch one they go away. It’s like grunion hunting, a school comes ashore and everyone within 100 yds comes storming your spot and by the time they get there the school is spooked, gone, and coming ashore 100 yds away where everyone came from. Sometimes they don’t run at all on the beach where you’re at but that doesn’t mean they didn’t run in masses somewhere else. In the old precomputer days when someone caught the first bonito of the season word would spread quick and the pier would be a mad house within a few days. That’s the way it is, word spreads computers or not. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
I do hope you’ll have buggin’ success soon. It does seem to be a Gumpy year, my mama says hoopin for bugs is like a box of chocolate.
Good luck Ben keep the faith don’t be so sad, this too shall pass, you’ll be all smiles again the night your hoop comes over the rail fully bugged. OMATS.

Posted by dompfa ben

I’m taking my hoop, and I’m going home:) That’s awesome. I hadn’t looked at it that way, either. Thanks to everyone for the viewpoints. I guess I’ll take a wait and see attitude.

Posted by Ken Jones

Father forgive us for we all have sinned! The opening statement on the PFIC web page says “This fishing website is dedicated to the thousands of regulars (a.k.a. pier rats) who fish California’s piers on a weekly or even daily basis.” That statement was true in 1997 when the site was begun and it is still true today. The primary motivation for the site was a perceived need for education—whether it is in angling skills or in the understanding that ours is a brittle and rarely understood (or appreciated) resource.
Initially PFIC was a one-man operation and limited in approach. With Rich’s guidance we added a message board in 1999 and the site took a quantum leap as far as the dissemination of information (some good, some bad). With increased numbers does come the possibility of increased abuse of the resource. Piers traditionally have been crowded and I know personally that favorite spots have been contested as long as I have fished (I still remember getting up at 4 A.M. so that I could get the coveted corner spot at Newport Pier). Adding a message board that spreads the information will indeed lead to greater numbers of people being attracted to the “hot” spots.
But, the same is true of books and their authors who discuss various piers and techniques. It’s also true of the fishing columns in the newspapers, the radio fishing talk shows, the TV fishing shows that stir the blood and the buddies who call with their cell phones as soon as a spot appears to be hot.
We could of course return to the dark ages and prefer to live in silence, ignorant of the world around us. Instead we live in an information age in which we are presented a multitude of resources in which to learn about and get quick information about whatever it is that interests us (in this case fishing).
I will not apologize for giving each of you a forum to spread the information even if it does indeed lead at time to crowded spots. Nor will I apologize for writing a book that might encourage more people to try pier fishing. If education via this web site or my book can open the eyes of some people to the beauty of piers then I will have, in part, achieved one of my goals.
But if guilt must be assigned for crowded conditions or a perceived decrease in fish numbers then I feel we all are at fault. We who spread the information (books, web sites, radio, T.V., message board members who post) and those who simply read the boards and do not post.
If there is a problem it is how the information is used. Regulars at the pier have already studied and know their piers. They know what seasons will see what species and they know the methods necessary to catch the various species. They know that variations do occur both seasonally and yearly and they honor the whims of Mother Nature. They may or may not let their friends know when a “bite” is on.
Newbies and occasional anglers use the modern resources to speed up, perhaps even circumvent the process. They may not have spent the time learning their craft yet they expect to receive tangible rewards “now” by watching the “news” posted on the various sites and in various sources.
Old timers like myself may at times resent this approach but in part it simply reflects the modern age and our modern resources. As a sometimes-certifiable Luddite, it does at times rile the soul but then I turn on my Dylan —

“Times They Are A Changing”
Come mothers and fathers all over this land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughter are beyond your command
Your old role is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand
For the times they are a changing
The line, it is drawn, the curse, it is cast
The slow one will later be fast
And the present now will soon be the past
The order is rapidly fading
The first one now will later be last
For the times, they are a changing

The times have changed and until we learn how to use this wealth of information in a positive manner then we all are at fault and all have sinned— in a manner of speaking.

Posted by cayucosjack

True True True.

Posted by Morone

The bad and the good…. While this board has been an invaluable information resource for both those who respectfully enjoy the resources and those who would selfishly exploit and ruin it, there are some secondary benefits to that exploitation as well. Any time any of us speak of knowledge that poachers, spot rushers, litterers, and other nasties are, in fact, lurkers of this board, then you are exhibiting another kind of knowledge that you have gleaned from PFIC website. At least you know something about who is poaching, and ways to tap into their conscientiousness and get them to think about the consequences of their actions. To alienate lurkers that would otherwise STILL be looking for where the resources are most easily exploited, and STILL finding them, from a place where they have the greatest chance (I know of) to learn the value of resource conservation, fishing etiquette, and other virtues embraced by respected members of this message board and UPSAC, would be tantamount to pushing a junkie out of a rehab clinic… or maybe you can think of a more appropriate analogy, but you get my point. Poachers suck, polluters, jerks, and people who don’t respect nature suck, but lurkers: please read, read, read…and learn!

Posted by Red Fish

Along the lines I was thinking…. and I have deleted a couple things I have written on this revolving topic.
So, some thoughts in list form:
1.) If poachers and litterbugs are the main concern, why don’t people speak up and check them on their behavior when they see it happening? Or are they mysterious creatures that no one ever sees that lurk in the night?
2.) Many must be concerned with over-crowding a spot regardless of any illegal activity going on as a result of publicizing an area.
3.) I don’t have a problem with it so much as I fish many, many locations.

Date: May 3, 2006
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Ken Jones
Subject: Solution? Any improvement? What’s down the road?

Does the overload of available information simply lead to an inevitable degradation of our resources? Is it like visiting the candy shop with a full wad of cash and not knowing when to stop? Where does sense and responsibility come into the picture?

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