Sure, a lobster dinner is a luxury for many, especially in this economy. But if you're able to pick one from the bottom of the ocean and not from a tank in a market or restaurant, the tab can be reduced, though there are fees to pay and rules to follow, as those who go after the tasty crustaceans know all too well.
The state Department of Fish and Game keeps a watchful eye on the sport take of California's spiny lobster. The season opened on Oct. 1 and runs through March 21, 2012.
The regulations, state officials say, "have helped to preserve the tradition of lobster diving and hoop netting in Southern California." Since 2008, the rules dictate that anglers possess and fill out a lobster report card to keep better tabs on just where the delicacies are being farmed.
That's in addition to carrying a valid sport fishing license and an ocean enhancement stamp, meaning the total fees paid approach $60. Even children under 16, who do not need the license and stamp, must have the $8.90 report card if they are fishing for lobster.
The lobster report cards must be filled out while on an outing, with the month, day, location and gear code noted on the card prior to the start of fishing. When finished for the day or changing locations, cardholders must record the number of lobster taken from that location.
The 2011 cards must be returned to the Department of Fish and Game by the end of January 2012 even if no lobsters were taken. The cards will be used to reveal trends, allowing the DFG to better manage lobster fishing.
Divers may take lobsters by hand only, and those using hoop nets must abide by specific material and size specifications. The daily bag and possession limit is seven, enough for a true feast, but lobster taken must be at least 3 1/4 inches in length, measured on the mid-line of the back, from the rear edge of the eye socket to the rear edge of the body shell.
Make sure you don't do your diving in the protected San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve off if you plan to keep your take.
If you still think the hunt and catch is more sporting than pointing to a lobster in a tank for your meal, you can find more information on lobstering at the DFG site.