We happened to be in Catalina a few months ago while lobster season was still on, so apropos of the time of the year, we pulled out our lobster trap, filled the little bait cage with succulent, freshly sliced-and-diced mackerel, and dropped it off the stern at sunset to see if we might catch something edible.
We were in luck. Within a few hours, we’d caught ourselves a live lobster. With a quick check to make sure it was well within the legal size range, in to the cooler it went for the journey back to Newport the following day.
Back at home, I propped my iPad on the kitchen counter and soon found a simple lobster recipe that called for a quick sear on the grill, finished off by gentle sautéing in a little butter, lemon and garlic.
Lobster season typically runs in California from the beginning of October to the beginning of March, and to help prevent recreational over-fishing, the California Department of Fish and Game sets regulations to ensure lobster populations thrive for generations, while also protecting the interests of commercial fishermen.
So you have to adhere to a few simple rules if you want to take a stab at catching your own. The first is a requirement for a lobster fishing permit. It took us mere minutes to purchase ours at a tackle shop in Avalon, but they are also readily available at bait and tackle shops all over Newport and online. Regular fishing permits don’t include lobster, so be sure you have the right one on hand lest you get caught and fined.
Second, just like other types of fishing sports, you can only keep a certain size once you manage to catch them. In California, you can keep a lobster if the rear edge of the body shell to the rear edge of the lobster’s eye socket measures at least 3 ¼ inches. We had a special ruler on board that we bought with the permit, just to be safe.
Of course, if this all sounds like too much trouble, you can always make a trip over to Pearson’s Port or Santa Monica Seafood where there are plenty of crustaceans available, and all you have to do is point. Since California’s lobster season is long over, this time of year the lobster is typically shipped to California from New England or Canada, and it’s a real treat.
Even better, you can also check out the upcoming Third Annual All You Can Eat Newport Beach Lobsterfest being held July 30 at Newport Dunes. No lobster trap, bait, license, ruler or recipe necessary. Just show up and all the hard work is done for you!
This year’s festivities are being hosted by the International Bacchus Society, so if you like wine with your lobster, this is the ticket!
In addition to an all-you-can-eat meal of whole Maine lobster or Maine lobster tail, crab claws, shrimp, clams, mussels, tri-tip for non-seafood lovers, red potatoes, corn on the cob and all the trimmings, festivities will include a sandcastle building contest for the kids, opportunity drawing, auction, live music by The Jimmy Buffet Tribute Band, dancing and more.
Lobsterfest ticket prices start at $75 per person ($25 per child under 14) for general admission and VIP tickets can be purchased for $150 per person. Proceeds will benefit the African Project’s “Doc in a Box” and Leadership Tomorrow serving the communities of Costa Mesa, Irvine, Newport Beach, and Tustin.
Because the lobsters won’t be local, they have to be ordered ahead of time. This requires everyone who is interested in attending to purchase tickets in advance by logging on to www.lobsterfestatnewportbeach.com. Tickets will be held at “Will Call” on the day of the event, and no, none will be sold at the door, sorry.
So don’t forget to buy your tickets in advance. They’ll even have those fancy lobster bibs you can tie around your neck so you don’t drip drawn butter down the front of your Tommy Bahama shirt!