What’s for dinner tonight?
For Jason Easterling, a general contractor from Jupiter, that was a no-brainer.
Easterling and three companions took advantage of the first day of the two-day spiny lobster season Wednesday, launching their boat from Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach around 7 a.m. and returning a few hours later with a haul of 48.
“I half the tail, grill real lightly, add a little lemon and butter and it’s absolutely delicious,” said Easterling as he used his gloved hands to pull a lobster head off its body. “Real good eating.”
Lobster was likely on the menu for thousands of scuba divers and snorkelers who took to the ocean for the start of the mini-season that began at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and ends at 11:59 tonight.
Easterling said he prepared for Wednesday by taking scouting trips during the past two weekends to locate the crustaceans, or “bugs” as they are called. When Easterling and his friends went back out early Wednesday, they knew exactly where to find the clawed creatures.
On their first dive, Easterling’s group nearly caught their allotted limit of 12 lobsters per diver.
“We knew there was an abundance out there,” Easterling said.
That wasn’t the case for Travis McCoy. He and friend Gary Chapman spent three hours Wednesday morning searching sand holes and under rocks but returned from their expedition empty-handed.
McCoy, 19, said he came close to snatching a couple of lobsters, only to see them burrow themselves into the ocean floor. It’s the first time since he began lobster hunting several years ago that he returned with nothing to show for it.
“Yeah,” said McCoy, of Loxahatchee. “We’re going back, though. We’re not giving up.”
Among those searching for dinner Wednesday were various law enforcement officials keeping an eye out for boaters and marine life. As of late Wednesday afternoon, representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and Florida Wildlife Commission reported no major problems.
“Thankfully, we haven’t had any search-and-rescues or accidents,” said FWC spokeswoman Carlie Segelson, adding there have been a “variety” of warnings for issues that include dive-flag violations and under-sized lobsters. “People are following good judgment.”
Boaters returning to Phil Foster Park and Currie Park reported perfect conditions for diving, with good visibility and a manageable current.
“You couldn’t ask for a better day,” Dave Lorenz of West Palm Beach said.
As he’s done for the past 10 to 12 years, Lorenz said he took off Wednesday and Thursday from his job as a mechanical engineer to go lobster hunting. Lorenz said he used to go diving for lobster off Biscayne Bay but the wave of boaters in that area caused him to move his search to Palm Beach County.
Lorenz said he noticed an uptick in boat traffic Wednesday and decided to return to shore early.
“People are in a frenzy to get these lobsters,” said Lorenz, who was accompanied by his wife, daughter, son-in-law and a friend. “They think they’re the last ones they’re ever going to have.”