Lobster are a delicious source of protein and can also be found in locations that have structure. They forge around hunting for food at night and tend to take shelter in the day time. Look for them in cracks and crevices, and look carefully for their antennas sticking out of the hole where they have taken refuge. Remember that lobsters swim backwards, so if you are using a net to catch one then make sure you set it behind them. I have always caught them with my hands. If you choose to do it this way, make sure you wear gloves and do not just reach in the hole blind. Know what is in the hole, before you reach your hand in. There could be a moray eel in there, and if it latches on to you are in big trouble. (Safety needs to come first. If a moray does happen to latch onto you, the chances are that he won’t let go. Grab your dive knife and try to stick him in the head.) If you are desperate and do not want to chance losing a lobster, then you can shoot him with your gun. It is easy pickin’s, but be careful as it is not legal to spear lobster in the U.S.
Lobsters move in large numbers, depending on the weather. If the barometric pressure drops below 1000 millibars for more than eight hours (like in hurricanes or tropical storms) then a lobster walk is sure to follow within the next week. This is not a joke, and it’s an incredible phenomenon to experience. When this occurs, hundreds of thousands of lobsters from the Florida Keys to Stuart will walk in straight lines moving in a north easterly fashion to find safe harbor, sometimes in water as shallow as three feet. If you time it right, you can eat well for a long time.
I have been fortunate enough to experience this incredible occurrence on six separate occasions. Be observant and know what is happening around you. Sometimes catastrophes spawn huge opportunities.
Sea urchins are perhaps the easiest animal of all to catch, once you have found one. They too live in structured areas– on reefs and sometimes around mangroves. They are delicious and bring in a premium dollar at sushi restaurants around the globe. They look like circular balls with spikes sticking out everywhere. Usually when you find one, there will be more close by. This ligoes for lobster as well. To catch a sea urchin, simply reach down with a net and scoop them up. If you don’t have a net, you can also grab them with your hands. (That’s how I have always done it.) If you are planning on grabbing them with your hands, you definitely need gloves. Pick them up softly, and do not grip them tightly. If you do it carefully enough, you will be fine. You may get pricked a few times, but it sure beats starving.
Once you have succeeded in catching an urchin, make sure you have a bucket or something you can fill with salt water to keep them fresh. Do NOT kill the urchin. They spoil very fast. Keep it alive. You don’t want to eat one after it has died. It should still be alive seconds prior to eating it.
To clean an urchin, first cut it open at its belly and pour out the liquid inside. The edible part has an orange color to it and is nestled vertical on the inside walls of the sea creature. I usually scoop it out with a spoon and eat it right there. It is out of this world. Try it, and you won’t be disappointed.
STINGRAYS / SHARKS
Stingrays are overlooked by most people and considered a nuisance to take off the line, if caught by most fisherman. The reality is they are a very tasty item and one you should not discard. They can be caught using what I call a shark line. This is basically a trot line in salt water with a few differences.
First, your plan of attack is to find an area like an estuary or where the sea water flows into at high tides. This is an area that is dry at low tide and about three to five feet deep at incoming and peek high tide. These are areas stingrays love. A little trick is to visit the area when the tide is all the way out. If you see holes in the sea bed in different circular diameters all over the place, you know you are in the right spot. Those are the footprints of where the ray has been laying before the tide changed and jit went back out to sea. (As a side note, if you are ever walking in one of these areas when the water level is up, make sure to drag your feet. This is a safety measure that will prevent you from getting tagged by the barb of a stingray. The barb is located above the base of the tail, and if you step on top of a stingray the chances of getting stung are high. However, dragging your feet will result in your foot touching the outer portions of the ray and causing it to swim away rapidly with no issues occurring.
Once a good location to fish is found, you will need to construct a shark line. To do this you will need 15 ft. of wire liter, four large swivels, four treble hooks, two medium-sized hooks, two large shark hooks, 15 feet of nylon rope, one cement cinder block, and four milk jugs painted a bright color. If you don’t have some of these items, then improvise. Pay attention to this; it always works. Remember this is the same concept as the alligator line and the trot lines we discussed earlier. The setup is just a little different but same concept. You are setting a line that works for you without you being present. To rig your shark line, you will need to tie the nylon rope to the handles of all four milk jugs. (These are buoys or use something that floats very well and can be seen from a distance.) Next you will need to tie the other end of the nylon rope to one of the eyes of the swivels, making sure you tie it in a square knot so it won’t loosen with tension. Next, tie the wire liter to the other end of the swivel. Twist the wire liter around the swivel and the other end of the liter wire. You will need a pair of needle nose pliers to get it snug. Snip the end when you are done so that it stays tight. Now, start attaching your hooks at spaces of 12 inches to the wire liter by twisting each hook eight rotations or whenever the hook is tight and not able to travel down the liter wire. I usually mix it up and place a different hook every 12 inches, but all you want is for the creature taking the bait to get snagged. If the shark hooks don’t catch your fish, usually the treble hooks will. After you have all of your hooks attached to the liter wire, the next thing to do is weave the liter wire through the inside squares of the cinder block four times and then rotate the end of the wire around itself. Make it tight, and use your needle nose pliers to insure it doesn’t come apart if something gets caught and tries to free itself. Now you are ready to set your line. Ideally you will need a kayak, canoe, small dinghy, or paddle surf board. If you need to wade out to set it, then so be it. Make sure to drag your feet, if you are in the shallows of an estuary. Just be sure to set your line where it is going to get fish traffic. I usually bait every hook, including the treble hooks. (I personally like mullet, but use whatever you can get. You may need to go and spear something and use it for bait.) The great thing about the line is that you never know what you are going to catch. This is why you use the large hooks for sharks and large stingrays and the smaller hooks for the smaller things. The treble hooks are there to snag whatever it is you already have at the line in hopes of not losing it. The cinder block is there to create drag, keep the line stationary, and hold some of the bait at the bottom. The jugs or buoys are to allow you to find the line should you catch something very large that has moved the rig several hundred yards away. (I was once dumbfounded when my shark line went missing one morning. It took me three hours to locate almost a mile away. When I pulled up the line, it had the head of a 7-foot Mako shark on it. I set my line the day before in six feet of water.) The moral here is you never know what you are going to catch, but if you bait your line the right way you will be successful and you will get something to eat.
To clean a stingray, you will first need to be extremely cautious in not touching the barb. The best thing you can do is remove it with a hatchet or a machete. (Stingray barbs make great spear tips and can be used for frog gigs as well). Cut off the wings on both sides of the ray. Once the wings have been cut act as if it were a fish and proceed to filet it. Caution, there is a strip of cartilage in the center, so cut just above and below it so that you don’t get tough strips in the meat. Once you have your filets, you will then cut strips off and then you are ready to eat. Stingrays taste like a mixture between shrimp, fish, and oysters. They are best sautéed or fried. They are also good in gumbo and make a great fish chowder.
Sharks are a protected species now, but in a worst case scenario you may need to harvest some to stay alive. Sharks will eat most anything, and you can utilize the remains of what you catch on land or sea to use as bait for sharks. If you are trying to catch sharks, it would be best to set your line in water that is a little deeper than in an estuary. Fifteen feet is a good depth. I have eaten many sharks in my day. They have a rich taste are great in soup, and they will keep you and your family from going hungry. The last tip in setting your shark line is to leave it out during the night, and check it early in the morning, providing of course that the tide cooperates and it is deep enough if you are placing it in an estuary location. The same rules apply to a shark line, as that of the trot line; do not leave it out for days at a time. This way you limit the exposure it has to passing boats or other starving people. In addition it limits the time that your catch can get away or be eaten by something larger.
Another protected species is the sea turtle. They are beautiful creatures, and I have had the privilege of swimming with them on numerous occasions. But this article would not be complete, however, if I didn’t mention them as a potential food source. Sea turtles are still considered a delicacy in many countries and are still harvested by poachers. Their meat and eggs are sold on the black market for huge amounts of money, even to this day. It should be noted that sea turtles walk ashore in May to lay eggs. They move very slow when walking on the beach and can easily be caught if needed.
Nests can be found on the coastlines usually until October. You can’t miss the footprints on the sand in the mornings before the waves have washed them away.
The techniques mentioned here are not limited to the animals specified above. There are food sources everywhere. Open your mind to the choices, and don’t limit yourself and feel like you’re entitled to anything better. There is no such thing as entitlement. You are entitled to what you provide for yourself.
To stay healthy, you will need to consume other things, like fruits, vegetables, and foods with fiber as well. Do some research, as there are many edible plants that grow naturally, no matter where you live. Starting a garden is something we should all be doing. It is much healthier and brings us back to nature.
I would like to conclude by stating that I am NOT by any means an advocate of taking protected species, nor do I agree with the unnecessary killing of animals. I obey the law, and I only kill what I intend to eat. I also, however, do not agree with the practices of our political leaders who see fit to throw everything our forefathers did down the toilet. We are in sad but scary times, and the actions of our people in office could lead to a devastation in our way of life. We may be faced with limited options one day. If reality changes for the worst and our survival depends on putting food on our tables, then everything else goes out the window. I will take my chances at catching a protected species to keep my family alive. The world is completely different now than it was even ten years ago. We, as a species, had better get it together, or someday we may be facing extinction. We need to remember where we came from and embrace our past and the practices that are centered on self-reliance. Although virtues, integrity, and sacrifice may be a thing of the past, there are still a few of us out there that believe in it. To you out there on the edge of fence, I will leave you with this– Always view things from an outside perspective. I hope this information helps you to attain whatever types of food sources that are available in your area. They have worked for me, and I promise they will work for you. There is no better feeling than being able to put food on your on table that nature has provided to feed the ones you love. Remember, if it has hair, feathers, or scales you can eat it. Make it work; be an innovator and improvise. You are part of the circle of life, and whether you acknowledge it or not, that is who you are. Be safe, Good luck and may God be with us all.