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The Magic of the Lobster Pats

The Sanpedrano fishermen earned their living using these lobster traps locally known as lobster pats or crayfish pats from the 1950’s through the 1980’s and to a very limited extent still used today.

Let’s first build one. Three rectangular frames are built and then covered with bamboo or palmetto strips. Notice the opening at the top which has a removable cover. From there the lobsters are extracted. Notice the opening on the side where the lobsters enter but somehow can’t figure out how to come out.

The crayfish pat is soaked to make it heavy and some rocks are placed inside as ballasts to help anchor it to the ground.

The pats are placed in grassy patches about 300 to 800 feet away from the beach in about 10 feet of water. No bait is placed in the traps. The lobsters supposedly are looking for shelter and take these as caves where they shelter for the day.

During the night these nocturnal crustaceans are supposed to crawl around feeding. That is when they end up entering the trap fortunately for the fisherman and unfortunately for the poor lobster.

Now let’s go fishing. When the fisherman arrives at his spot where he has scattered some 200 traps, he locates one by eyesight. The trap looks darker than its surroundings. He then traps it with the hook you see under the trap. He removes the cover and grabs his lucky catch placing the large or adult ones in a bag and releasing the juveniles.

A rookie fisherman uses protective gloves to handle the spiny crayfish which live up to its name. However after a few years, his hands become very thick, tough and impermeable, as tough as the sole of his feet.

Five to ten crayfish is considered a good catch. Next he cleans the pat using a laundry scrubbing brush, piece of cloth or net. The rocks are arranged once again and the pat is released once again to settle at the bottom of the sea.

Now here are some extra tips. The pats become whitish as the days go by because they get covered by muddy sediments. That is when they fish better for they create more shade. These traps are more effective when the mouth opening faces north as crayfish supposedly migrate at night in a southerly direction.

If a moray eel enters the pat, take it out for crayfish refuse to enter when that devil is present. So now enjoy lobster fishing as was done twenty five years ago.

– by Angel Nuñez, Columnist

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