By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Mar 17 2015 05:45PM
Last weekend we ventured down to the South Coast with our new prize possession - a lobster pot. Lobsters are the king of crustacea and a real prize if you can catch one yourself. Although available all year round, they are in their best condition from the Autumn and into early Spring (ie. around now) before they start to moult.
The law on catching your own lobsters is irritatingly difficult to fathom (pun intended). Your local fishery will almost certainly have its own bye-laws and in some places (such as the North West fishery) you'll need a permit. Although a tedious process, it's worth spending some time on the internet researching your local fishery's regulations before you put any pots out. At best you risk having your catch confiscated. At worst, you'll lose your kit and be faced with a fairly hefty fine.
Wherever you are, two laws will definitely apply:
First , the minimum landing size for a lobster is an 87mm carapace (from the back of the eye socket to the end of its body). To be honest, anything smaller than that will look pretty puny anyway, so really you're after something considerably larger but certainly anything smaller will have to be returned to the water.
Secondly, there is a system of protecting "berried" (egg bearing) and breeding females by cutting a small notch in their tails - although recreational fisherman don't have to v-notch lobsters themselves, it is illegal to be in possession of one and you face a fine of up to £50,000. So if you ever catch one, however big it is, it also has to go straight back.
Legal research done and after sourcing one slightly smelly mackerel as bait, we braved the icy seas of the English Channel at low tide and placed our pot on a sandy patch in a small rocky cove. The trap was set and surely all we had to do was wait overnight, haul in our prize catch and prepare the boiling pot. Well, it'll come as no surprise to learn that it didn't exactly go to plan. Returning to the cove on Sunday morning, the icy cold water was still there. So was our pot. And so was our smelly mackerel. No lobster. Not even a crusty old crab had been willing to throw himself in. How shell-fish of them (geddit?). Still, we resolved to keep trying and will be back next weekend. We'll keep you up to date with our progress.
In the meantime, if you've had more luck than us or (more likely) happen to have a friendly local fishmonger and fancy cooking lobster, here's James Martin's traditional lobster thermidor recipe which is actually remarkably easy to make. "Saving with Jamie" it certainly ain’t, but a seriously tasty, decedant Spring dish it definitely is.