In Bohuslän, anyone can catch their own lobsters once the lobster catching season begins on the first Monday after the 20 September. You can either use your own boat or book a Lobster Package, where you get to join the crew on a guided Lobster Safari held by skilled professional fishermen. This is what I did. It is a still morning when we set off to sea with veteran fisherman Ivan Axelsson as our guide – to bring home the Black Gold of the Ocean.
– In Bohuslän, the start of the lobster catching season is a celebration that is just as important as Christmas, and some people even compare it to the annual elk hunt, Ivan tells us as we meet on the pier on Resö, about 30 minutes from Strömstad. Ivan Axelsson is a retired fisherman, now in charge of the lobster pots used for guided tours of the Kosterhavet Sea, organised by Resö båtcharter. He was born locally and lives on the island of Resö in the Kosterhavet Archipelago, where the water is saltier, the rocks smoother, the wind stronger and the shellfish taste better than anywhere else! At least this is what this retired fisherman, who just celebrated his 76th birthday, tells us when he passionately and with great enthusiasm explains to us how lobsters are caught.
What is so special about catching lobsters?
– Oh, it’s the excitement when you pull up the lobster pots. When you begin to make out the contours of the pot, but you can’t tell whether there is anything inside. The seconds before you find out whether or not you have struck lucky – this feeling makes it all worthwhile – every time! I have caught all types of shellfish and lobster is the most exciting by far, which is why the guided tours we arrange for tourists work so well.
By the time we head out to sea, the lobster pots have already been in the water for a few days; baited with salted herring and mackerel. It is time to empty the pots and the expectations on board are just as high as the price per kilo paid for lobster on the first day of the season. We get closer to the red buoys and the first pot of the day is pulled onto the deck – full of crabs, but not a single lobster. The by-catch is removed, Ivan re-baits the pot and we set course towards the next pot where we find… more crabs. The same procedure is repeated twice more before the first two shiny black crustaceans bring a smile to our somewhat frustrated faces.
Hummer on board
Our cries of joy are turned into a slight sense of disappointment when it turns out that the smallest of the lobsters is not big enough – the carapace must measure at least eight centimetres – and the larger one, a female with roe, is also allowed back into the water. Our skipper tells us that we have more pots to empty about fifteen minutes away. When we reach the next buoy, the engine is turned off and the line is hauled in, metre by metre. Ivan encourages everyone to get close to the bulwark and help pull the pots in. Is this it? Do we dare hope?
When the lobster pot finally lands on deck, three large lobsters and a small crab are wriggling in the net walls – finally a sizeable catch and we all cheer. All the lobsters pass the size check and the remaining pots on our safari result in another four good-sized lobsters. What does it matter that the weather is grey and the sun has disappeared behind heavy clouds – we have found lobsters!
Warm crab and bubbly on the pier
When we return to the pier after a few hours at sea, it feels as if the land beneath our feet is still rising and falling. Ivan takes care of both the lobsters and the crabs, which are cooked immediately, in that order, in a prawn cooker on the pier. The black shells of the lobsters turn bright red in the boiling water; sea water with a few cubes of sugar added for each lobster. After 16-17 minutes, the lobsters are taken out and the crabs put in, to be boiled for 20 minutes. It’s a great feeling to enjoy lukewarm crab on the pier while Ivan tells stories from his life by the sea.
– When I was a young lad at school I had some friends who used to catch lobster, Ivan begins, in his inimitable Bohuslän accent. In those days, the rules for what you were allowed to catch were different: the lobsters should measure at least 22 cm from the nose to the tip of the tail. My friend had a couple of lobsters in his pot that he knew were borderline, a fact that was also pointed out by the Coast Guard when they stopped his boat to inspect the catch. My young friend insisted that ‘Of course the lobsters are 22 cm long’ and picked up the smallest one to measure it. He placed the lobster on his measuring stick and started folding its tail out towards the 22-centimetre line. A little further, and a little further, almost there now… and suddenly the poor lobster was in two parts! The Coast Guard did not accept that measurement, ha ha ha.
The crabs taste amazing with a little bubbly, porter and beer. To catch lobsters in Bohuslän together with an experienced fisherman is a little easier, a little saltier – and much more fun!
The lobsters we caught will be enjoyed later that evening, in the restaurant where the tables are now being laid for our lobster feast. The lobsters will be accompanied by prawns, langoustines, wine-cooked mussels, freshly baked bread and sauces for dipping – paradise for a shellfish enthusiast. Welcome to lobster heaven and the seaside lifestyle of Bohuslän.
Text: Mikael Almse
Photos: Jonas Ingman, Jennie Lund, Dan Sörensen