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Let's Go Check The Lobster Traps

Making the rounds to check the crayfish path 25 years ago was like a ritual to the fishermen and perhaps a bit different today. First of all you got to your spot 2 or 3 or 4 miles from the village with your dory, either using a small sail, two paddles, or a pole. Late in the 1950’s they were using a three horse power outboard engine, which was considered a luxury. To save on gasoline, my dad used to go one way with the “palanca” or pole, and returned with the little engine.

Once on the fishing grounds where the 200 lobster traps were all spread, dad went directly to the first one that was set right in the middle of a “negresal” or a grassy area which was black, thus the word “negresal”. Using a small box with a piece of glass at the bottom, dad would study the fish trap with amazing calmness. I was very anxious to get word from dad and take action. If the trap had only three or four lobsters, dad would leave it untouched and proceeded to the next trap. Big disappointment for me! Sometimes dad would say, “It is empty but very dirty. We need to pull it in and clean it.” We would use a scrubbing brush or old piece of net to rub off the mud that accumulated on the trap. Dad said that when the trap was clean, it looked darker and the lobsters believed that it was a better shade to take shelter under.

At other times, dad would shake his head and say, “The dolphins have broken up the trap. We need to pull it up and repair it. Dad kept hammer and nails and some bamboo strips or pimento sticks to do the repairs. This part I found boring. However, ever so often dad would say, “Someone has gotten here before us and the idiot has taken the lobsters. I know for there are the finger marks on the cover of the trap or some of the strips of bamboo have been ripped off.” But fortunately at most of the traps, dad would smile and say, “Throw the anchor.” I hurriedly flung the anchor, got the hook stick, hooked the trap, and dad would put it up on board. The lobster would jump all over the trap, and I would be filled with excitement. We removed the cover and proceeded to count the lobster as we placed them into a crocus bag. A good trap yielded up to fifteen, but six and seven per trap would be considered a good catch. The trap was cleaned and dad would make sure that it would be sunk back at exactly the same spot in the middle of the “negresal”.

Some “negresales” were considered good fishing grounds. Others did not yield a good catch so dad would move the trap to another “negresal.” By ten in the morning, we would be hungry so dad pulled out the little paper bag with a few flour tortillas and a piece of cheese and the gallon of water, and we had our brunch. Boy, did that taste delicious. This was usually the most exciting part of the day for me. By 11 a.m. we had finished checking some 100 traps and we called it a day. That was Monday, and the next 100 traps would be left for Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday were resting days, at least for the lobster traps. They would be checked once again on Friday and Saturday. If you think my dad took two days holidays, you are wrong. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, we spent time at the fish traps, giving the lobster traps some time and good luck to make another catch. The month of July was a good month. November and December were good months due to the northerly winds and lobsters were more plentiful. February and March, towards the end of the season were very poor. Well, those are my statistics of twenty five years ago.

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