Friday, July 31, 2009

Bug Madness

It seems the lobsters managed to take down two divers this year during mini season which is fewer than some years. Highway One was clogged with trucks towing boats, gas stations were packed at all hours with people pouring precious gasoline into boat tanks, truck tanks, jugs and some of us foolish people even tried to fill motorcycle tanks in the midst of mini season. Then they got out on the water: Florida lobsters don't look he least bit like Maine lobsters with big claws and everything. They more closely resemble large craw fish such as one might see in Louisiana, but left unmolested they would live 120 years hanging around under rocks and minding their own business. Lobster has become a fashionable food, despite the fact that the "bugs" as they are known, are bottom feeders and their meat doesn't offer any of the health benefits associated with eating fish with scales. People do like to hunt them down as early as possible on the two days of mini season:On my way home from work, around 6:20am I stopped the Bonneville on the bridge between Cudjoe and Summerland Keys to watch the boats processing up the channel toward the Gulf Of Mexico:The thing about mini season is that it is basically open season on the lobster. There are limits to how many one can harvest ( and it's not open to commercial fishermen) and the Marine Patrol tries to get extra units into the islands for this peculiarly Keys event but it's tough to patrol every nook and cranny. Inexperienced people end up snorkeling (air tanks aren't allowed) and they can end up getting into trouble all too easily. Especially inexperienced unfit townies down from the mainland.
They go out on the water all day, or as long as it takes to get their quota (whatever it is, I can't remember). Then they come in to eat at restaurants everywhere and spend a ton of money which is the point of the exercise. I spoke with a local restaurant owner who told a story of a table of eight who complained about the quality of the food and he just turfed them out. "Better to lose a four hundred dollar tab than try to make a bunch of assholes see sense," he shrugged. We like his place and eat there often, so it's hard to imagine he dropped standards suddenly and profoundly. The excitement of the lobster chase can make even mild mannered accountants lose their marbles, I suppose. Me? I'm not that fond of lobster; not fond enough to get up before dawn and go out blundering about in the dark trying to beat a bunch of crazies to the punch to snuff the life out of an animal that would live longer than you and me combined. Call me sentimental.