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Earlsferry Lobsters

Great great great grandma.

A well kept secret that's religiously guarded by the locals of the fraternity is the existence of lobsters that during the summer months live under the rocks and ledges of the seaweed and tangle covered rocks that are exposed for a short time at the low of the tidal ebb. The reason that  lobsters come into our low tidal rocky places in the summertime is because this is where they've chosen to live amidst the habitat of tangles and seaweeds while the females are in the process of spawning. Females have a wider body aft of their mid section than the males and carry their eggs on the underside between the mid section and the tail.  I always only took the big males and left the females to live on to do their thing of starting the new generation.  The instant way to determine the gender of a lobster is that the male has his larger crusher claw on his right side and his finer serrated scissor claw is on his left.  Female are exactly opposite.

Where lobsters go in the winter time I don't know but I understand they travel long distances. 

"Time and tide waits for no man," was never truer than in terms of lobstering.  Each lunar month there are about three days of very low ebb tides that happen around the full of the moon.  These are lobster tides; time to abandon all other pursuits and head for the beach. You have at most about an hour and a half to check out the rocks and ledges known to you as places where lobsters choose to live and hide out.  Start about an hour before the low of the ebb.  When fully out, the tide will then stop, do nothing for a few minutes, turn, then start pouring in.  You have about half an hour to work when the tide is on the inflow and covers over the rocks and chases you out.  Hopefully by then you'll have several fine lobsters in your bag and with a big smile on your face you're heading homewards. Another great day.


The only equipment needed is a cleek, a bag and a few rubber bands to restrain the claws. I made my cleek from a long golf club driver shaft; an old driver that's minus its head.  In place of the head, insert and attach a piece of steel rod about 3/16th of an inch diameter, about a foot long and with a small, pre-bent curve on the outer end. (Actually I do believe that a straight bamboo cane would move lobsters out from under the rock ledges just as well.)


To use: As sea weeds, tangles and kelp are an essential part of lobster habitat, first very carefully to not disturb the habitat, lift and push aside the seaweeds and the tangles that are now alive and growing and draped over the rock that you want to expose its underlying ledge.  Ideally, you're working in water that's about a foot deep. With  the cleek, start in at one side of the ledge and push/feel the cleek all the way in to the back of the hole.  Then slowly and gently move the cleek to the other side of the hole.  Then slowly withdraw the cleek out from under the ledge.  If there's a lobster there you'll feel it.  That moment of contact sends tingles up your spine and a big smile will cover your face. If you use a gentle touch and do not over- alarm the lobster, nine times out of ten, it will slowly emerge backwards right into your other hand.  Firmly grasp the lobster right across its back and right behind its big claws.  So held, it can't reach backwards to grab you. The biggest lobster I ever got wasn't in its lair. At that time I'd have been about twelve years old. The tide was rapidly on the inflow and I was coming up from the rocks that are seaward of what was Sonny and Birdie Mackie's house, The Bungalow. I was pretty well wet all over which prepared me for what I was about to encounter. I had waded into a spot where the sea was almost up to my thighs and there, just not moving and laying on the bottom and right in front of me, was the biggest lobster I've ever seen. It was a monster. Without taking my eye off it I discarded my bag and cleek on to a projecting rock and dove completely under to grasp it with both hands. It put up a protesting struggle and almost knocked me off balance but I wasn't about to let it go. It was quite an effort to carry it home. This sounds like a fisherman's tale but it isn't. 


Over the years I've seen two others that may have matched its size. They were both caught by an elderly man by the name of Jim Donaldson who absolutely refused to say where he got them other than "somewhere between Ardross and the Lady's Tower". He jokingly would say, "I'll disclose the exact location of the place before I die but he never did.  This giant lobster getting hole is there for somebody in this day and age to find. 


But be warned.  Lobstering, like gambling and whisky is highly contagious and addictive. In fact I guarantee  you that after you get your first one you'll be smitten and there is no cure for the affliction.  I know that for a truth. Ask Earlsferry's retired Dr. Stuart Gray. He's got the bug and has found he's hopelessly incurable.


Can you imagine that while playing golf and that you're on the 11th. tee, the Sea Hole, that all of a sudden you grab the cleek that just happens to be in your bag, abandon your clubs, fly over the rocks and return within ten minutes waving two good size lobsters.  I've done just that. Just a few yards over the rocks to the south of the 11th. tee are several high water tide pools that have good lobster holes. Come to think about it I'd be willing to bet that of all the thousands of golf courses in the world there's no course other than the Earlsferry one where you can play an enjoyable round of golf then as a bonus go home to your own lobsters for dinner that you caught halfway around the links. 



Many of the good lobster getting holes became proprietary and were respected as belonging to whoever was the discoverer. There was Jock Dunsire's hole, who, when he no longer went, passed his hole on to his son Davey who later passed that special place on to me. Each in his time passing the torch. 


To get to this fail-me-never (almost) lobster getting rock just wade out to the sandbank that at the low of the tidal ebb forms immediately to the south of the Earlsferry March Stane that is in a north/south alignment with The Ferry Road. There on the sandbank, all by itself, you will find a flattish and tangle covered /\ shaped rock that points seaward. Don't break off but carefully move the tangles that are growing on the rock up on top of the rock so that you can see the underlying ledge and with your right hand put your cleek in to the right hand side of the open /\.  Now slowly and gently move your cleek from right to left around the /\ and nine times out of ten, from the tail of the left hand side of the /\ shaped rock, a large lobster will back right into your waiting left hand. 


There was John's hole, Jems' hole, Pearson's hole, Jock Walker's hole,  Ondrey's hole, (a.k.a. Andrew Reekie),  and many other named holes. Ondrey specialized in the holes in the rocks from The Chapel to the beginning of West Bay.  In this, Ondrey's, territory he was an expert. One other thing I remember about Ondrey's prowess was that he was a terrific gowfer. As a putter he was a demon. He seldom needed two putts on any green. It was awesome to see his long curling putt, from clear across the sloping and undulating 13th green, find the hole dead center.


All of our local coastline from the old ruined castle at Ardross to the beach at the end of the West Sea Road at Earlsferry is great lobster territory.  

One my brother John caught.


A male <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< and >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>  a female

The big crusher claw of the male is on his right. Females are exactly opposite. Also, in comparison to the male, note the increased width across the back of the female's, flared, segmented, tail section.


Just a few yards from the 11th. tee

Lunder Law in the background  

Looking into a rock pool



Commercial Lobster Catching.


One time when  offshore at the barrier reef and on Caye Caulker in the Caribbean Sea, just 20 miles north/east from Belize City, Belize, which at one time was called British Honduras when the British were there, I was astonished to find that the easy to stack on deck creels of the commercial lobster fishermen there use no bait of any kind and are constructed on an entirely different principle to catch lobsters than the commercial lobster creels that are used around Great Britain that do require bait.  


Lobsters are nocturnal creatures that for protection from predators prefer to hole up in  places  that during the hours of daylight are shaded from the sun and the daylight.


Belize creels take up less deck space and are made to resemble a one-way-in hole where the creel provides darkness and shade from the light. 


These Belize, easy to make, inexpensive, durable, without-bait, lobster traps, attract lobsters just as the naturally dark light shutting out seaweed and tangle covered rock ledges do at Earlsferry and are highly productive.


The purpose of the trip to Belize was to see the Mayan ruins, the Belize Barrier Reef,  the Caribbean's Blue Hole which is about 60 miles straight out from  Belize City and to find out if Belize still had any Honduras mahogany trees.


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