How wonderful if this would be the situation today. If lobsters would exist in abundance today like twenty five years ago, all fishermen would be millionaires. And how come they are not millionaires if lobsters were in such abundance back then? Very simple, because the price was very low. Fishermen will recall when whole lobsters sold at 2 cents per pound, then 5 cents, then 10 and 15, and perhaps as much as 20 cents per pound of whole lobster. Then with the coming of the fishing cooperative, Caribeña, purchases were of tails only and there the prices started at about 50 cents per pound.
Well you all know the price today. But this column wants to give some examples of the times when lobster was in abundance. On delivery day, July 15, every year a typical fisherman would turn in about 50 bags full of lobsters. The really good ones showed up with a boatload of as much as 90 bags. The buyer, Mr. Efrain Guerrero, made several trips to Belize City to deliver the product.
Another thing fishermen remember with nostalgia was when their fishing traps became loaded with lobsters. You could see red patches from afar as you neared your trap. A trap could yield as many as 6 or 7 hundred lobsters on a good day in November when the northerly winds were blowing. There were as many as a hundred lobsters alone at the tail of a trap and those anybody could catch because they had not yet entered the trap. Therefore fishermen used to get up very early, at 4 in the morning, to visit the trap and get those at the tail first. After that, fishermen had to spear or catch the lobsters inside the trap so that they could get to the fish, for the lobsters were a nuisance and made casting the net a bit difficult.
Now about the underwater wooden lobster traps or crayfish path as they were called. A good trap in a good location yielded about 25 to 30 lobsters per trap. I had fun counting them aloud as my dad grabbed them one by one and put them in a crocus bag. With one hundred traps a fisherman could net two thousand lobsters per week. But darn it, that was only ten cents a pound.
Perhaps the best anecdote or fisherman tale was when lobsters were running during the cold northerly months of November and December. Red patches of lobster could be seen all over, right in front of the village. Even by the main pier in front of Big Daddy’s, you could load a dory in a matter of half an hour. I mean they formed lines as they paraded the sea- beds looking for food and shelter. Boys and their fathers used to hit the cold sea at four in the morning and literally raked the seabed with hook sticks or the famous loops or “lasso” as they were called. When we filled the dory, we went to the beach to unload and back to sea for some more. That is when fishermen used to say “langosta como arena” meaning lobster like sand or in great abundance. Yes, beautiful times twenty five years ago not only on opening day for the lobster season, but throughout the year.