Lobster tales make for a memorable miniseason
For John Strunk, it was the most exciting lobster miniseason ever.
He dived the two-day miniseason, which started at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and concluded at midnight Thursday, for the first time with the crew of Jim “Chiefy” Mathie, replacing long-time crew member Braden Whitworth, who had moved back home to Texas.
“I moved up in the world to a spot on the miniseason crew,” said Strunk, who had dived with Mathie during the regular season, which this year begins Thursday and runs through March 31.
Strunk rose to the occasion with a great catch Thursday that was rivaled by a memorable experience Wednesday that none of his fellow crew members will forget.
After all, it’s not every miniseason that a diver endures a lobster attack.
Strunk was diving off Boca Raton with Andy Rubin and the two of them were on a hotspot with keepers and undersized bugs.
“We were both lobstering on the reef. He’s going at it, I’m going at it,” Strunk said, explaining that Rubin was working just below him. “He’s throwing the shorts behind me when I felt something hit me in the thigh.
“Andy knew I was there, so he wouldn’t deliberately throw a lobster at me.”
Of course not. And because they were both busy, and the water temperature was cold — in the 70s — Strunk didn’t stop what he was doing.
Until he felt something crawling up his leg and into his shorts.
It was the lobster.
“There was no pain involved, thank God,” Strunk said. “I felt it crawl into my crotch.”
At that point, Rubin had moved away, and Strunk was trying to hold on to the bug so he could show his buddy.
He honked his underwater horn to get Rubin’s attention, waved him over with his finger and pointed at his private parts.
“I looked at John and wondered, ‘What the heck is he doing?’ ” Rubin said.
“I pulled my pant leg up,” Strunk said, “and Andy sees an antenna sticking out.
“We’re literally on our backs, laughing. I thought I was going to lose my regulator, I was laughing so hard.”
Strunk eventually pulled down his shorts and gently released the undersized lobster, which swam back to the reef.
When he and Rubin popped to the surface a little while later, Mathie knew they had a story to tell.
The author of “Catching the BUG: The Comprehensive Guide to Catching the Spiny Lobster,” Mathie said the story might even make it into the second edition of his book, which is sold by many dive shops and websites.
“When they surfaced, they’re laughing and talking, so we knew they had something pretty good,” he said. “When they got in the boat and we heard the story, we were literally howling.”
And everyone on the boat was glad that Strunk’s story had a happy ending.
The five-man Chiefy crew, which included Chuck Van Buskirk and Roger Soles, ended up with 51 lobsters Wednesday, nine short of their miniseason limit.
On Thursday, they dove in 40-80 feet of water north of Boca Raton, but several of their spots had either been picked over Wednesday or before they arrived the second day.
That was similar to reports from other divers. Heather Schaefer, of Coral Springs, and three other divers got 46 lobsters Wednesday off Boynton Beach and got only 24 Thursday diving in 40-60 feet off Boynton.
Jeff Torode, of South Florida Diving Headquarters, said “everybody got something” on his dive boats, but he said the consensus of his divers and others he spoke with was that the miniseason wasn’t as productive as last year’s.
The Chiefy crew ended up with 27 lobsters Thursday and also shot four hogfish, a yellow jack and a porgy.
Strunk was the star of the second day, earning the King of the Reef title that is bestowed on the top Chiefy diver.
He shot two of the hogfish and bagged eight or nine lobsters, including the biggest of the miniseason for the Chiefy crew.
“He was about a body length outside of his hole,” said Strunk, who did a double-take when he spotted the big bug. “He was sitting there all proud and tough.”
That made the lobster an easy target for Strunk, who put the loop of his snare over the bug’s tail and quickly pulled it tight.
“He didn’t put up much of a fight,” Strunk said. “I had to force him into my catch bag.”
That lobster, and the lobster story from the day before, made for a “great” miniseason.
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