A day in the life of a Lobster Fisherman and his Captain…

I had the MOST AMAZING day/experience this past weekend and just had to share it!  I received the call around 6 am – the weather was cooperating and the fishing was ON.  I was so excited!!!…but VERY nervous, too!  I had agreed to spend the day at sea with my good friends, Buddy and Cindy Pinder, while they fished their lobster traps.  My nervousness was because I have been sea sick on diving trips before, and I was afraid I would be sick spending all day on the water!  My excitement was because this was a new experience and one that I know not many people get to have!  It was a once in a lifetime chance for me – so I had to try it!

They picked me up at 6:50 am, towing their 27′ World Cat, ‘Bottom Time,’ and we put in at the bone fishing dock just north of Marsh Harbour on the west side, and were on our way before 8 am.  This was new territory for me – and VERY beautiful!

Buddy bringing ‘Bottom Time’ to the dock for us.
This is Bristol – Cindy and Buddy’s Goldendoodle. She is a doll and LOVES riding on the boat.
This is an interesting rock island near the dock.
Pretty clouds reflecting in the water. It was flat, calm near the dock.
A lizard hitched a ride on the boat! Bristol is our lookout.
We passed MANY small islands on both sides.
Although the water was VERY shallow for the first 20 miles, we could go fast because Buddy knew the way.

We were headed for their traps that are about 30 miles from where we put in.  The first 20 miles of the ride were very smooth, because we were protected by the main island of Abaco and many small islands on both sides and in very shallow water – about 3 feet.  Buddy knows where the most shallow areas and dangerous rocks are, so we were able to travel at high speed enjoying the beautiful water.  The last 10 miles were in open water north of Moores Island and between Abaco and Grand Bahama, but still relatively shallow water, up to 30 feet deep.

As we got further from the dock the water got choppier – but still a nice smooth ride in the World Cat!

The lobster traps we were headed for are not actually ‘traps,’ but habitats – a protective covering for the lobsters to hide under, like they naturally hide in crevices of coral reefs.  Buddy and Cindy check their ‘traps’ and add new traps every year around the first of June, so they will be ready to fish when lobster season opens August 1st.  (It closes March 31st.)  When they set new trapS they mark the GPS coordinates.

Buddy and Cindy are an AMAZING team, and before I explain how the fishing works I want to tell you a little about them.  Buddy is a true Abaconian – born and raised here.  He knows EVERYTHING about Abaco, and from what I can tell he can do almost ANYTHING!  He grew up lobster fishing and spent many years working with his family on a large lobster fishing boat.  He is also THE BEST bone fishing guide in Abaco and spends most of the year guiding now with some lobster fishing worked into the schedule, AND they do Island Hopping Charters – a future blog will expound on this.  His family owns the Big Bird Chicken Farm on Abaco, and they also grow limes and avocados on the farm.

Cindy is American.  She came to Abaco fishing with her Dad, and Buddy was their guide.  It is a love story  – before long Cindy gave up her nursing career and moved from Pittsburgh to Abaco to marry Buddy.  She is quite the adventurer!!!…and not afraid of a challenge.  Before moving to Abaco she spent time working on a Ski Patrol and has even been part of a car racing pit crew!  Her favorite hobby now is FISHING!!!   Buddy takes people fishing for a living, and when Buddy has a day off – they often go FISHING!  They even go on fishing vacations!  Buddy is a pro at spear fishing, too.  He can always come home with dinner!

♥ Cindy & Buddy Pinder ♥

Back to the lobster fishing day:  When we get close to the first trap, Cindy helps Buddy get his equipment ready for the dive.  As a Bahamian professional fisherman, he is allowed to use a compressor outfitted with a 300 foot hose and a regulator.  He wears a ‘skin’ for sun protection, Bull Frog sunscreen to protect his face and neck, heavy gloves to protect his hands from the spiny lobsters, fins for speed in the water, a weight belt to help him stay on the bottom without effort, and a dive mask.  He carries a lobster hook and strong mesh bag to gather the lobsters.

Buddy is showing his lobster hook in this picture. He has his regulator over his shoulder and gloves on – almost ready to go!
Buddy’s fins – ready to step off the boat.

They test the compressor, and Cindy takes over the captaining of the boat (she is a licensed boat captain) with Buddy ready to dive.  As we approach the first trap Cindy counts ’30, 20, 10’, (counting the distance in feet to the trap) and as she says 10, Buddy puts on his mask, takes the regulator in his left hand, grabs his hook and bag in his right hand and is in the water before time for ‘0!’  Immediately after the ‘10’, Cindy turns around and starts the compressor, so Buddy will have air for his dive.

Cindy starts the compressor…
Bristol watching for Buddy in the water.

While he is in the water Cindy is busy watching the air hose and his bubbles – to stay close but not run over the line, and she is watching for him to surface – to pick him up.  He climbs the ladder and places the catch on the boat – a BAG FULL OF LOBSTER TAILS!  The first trap was a good haul!

Buddy climbing back on the boat – his bag of tails on the deck!
While Cindy takes us to the next trap, Buddy puts the tails in the bucket of circulating fresh salt water.
Tails from the first trap – 14! – a good catch!

While Buddy is underwater he moves the trap and quickly hooks and kills the lobsters (chasing them as they try to scurry away).  The tool he uses has a large hook on one end that he uses to grab it, then he takes it in his other hand (why he wears gloves) and uses the large metal point on the other end of the hook to kill the lobster.  He quickly kills them and drops them on the sea floor, and when he has killed them all he goes back and removes the tails and puts them in his bag. He is AMAZINGLY fast!…he would say it is from lots of practice, but he is a natural in the water, too!

While Buddy puts the catch in a large bucket circulating with fresh saltwater, Cindy is taking us to the next trap.  Buddy readies his equipment – and before you know it I hear “30, 20, 10,” Cindy starts the compressor, and Buddy is back in the water on the 2nd trap!  In the boat we are happy if he stays down a while – it means more lobsters!

On a few traps he brought up the whole lobster.  If they had a 3rd person helping on the boat (not a useless observer like me!) he would bring them up whole every time as this would speed up the fishing process, and the helper would take the tails off.  It was fun to see the bag full of whole lobsters!  He said he brought them up whole those times because the water was ‘muddy’ – so he was ready to get out of the water and do the rest of the work on top.

Buddy with the bag of whole lobsters.

After an hour of this – we have a full bucket of lobster tails, and I am EXHAUSTED!!!…and all I have done is hang on to the rocking boat and observe the masters at work!  They are an amazing team!!!…with an efficient rhythm going as they move from trap to trap.  As the bucket gets full Buddy dumps the tails into a huge ice chest and covers them in ice – starting over with an empty bucket.

A full bucket of tails!

By 11:30 I was so tired that I watched the action from my reclining chair they brought for me!  I felt like such a wimp – but an honored guest, too!   When Buddy stepped into the water, I would close my eyes for a few minutes and then check out the bag with the catch when he got back on the boat.  He was always happy to answer my questions between dives.

Here I am resting while they work, and Buddy is answering one of my MANY questions!

They FINALLY took a lunch break around 12:30 – quickly ate a sandwich and were right back to work.   I was still resting!


Cindy taking a quick break to pose with me for a picture.

For a 3rd time this season fishing the traps, Buddy thought it was a pretty good day, but many of their traps had be recently fished by someone else – VERY DISAPPOINTING!  Buddy can tell if his traps have been fished – sometimes they are moved from the original spot (the grass dies under the trap – and leave a mark – a rectangle of white sand), or the silt and sand that settles on the trap has been disturbed, and of course – the lobsters are not there!  Some of their traps were TOTALLY GONE!  Someone had moved them – not a nice thing to do!    So much money and effort goes into building and setting the traps, so losing them to hurricanes can be heartbreaking, but losing them to theft is REALLY disappointing!

When we would get to a location where a trap was MISSING, Buddy would hold on to the hose and Cindy would pull him through the water while he looked to see if he could find it. In open ocean it is like looking for a needle in a haystack!

One of many interesting facts I learned:  The lobster grow by shedding their shells.  If the meat is pinkish, they are fattening up to shed.  You can feel that some of the shells are really hard and some are soft – the new shells growing to replace the old one.

By late afternoon  they had fished the traps that were in areas with visibility.   Some of their traps were in areas with a ‘fish mud.’  From a distance a ‘fish mud’ looks like brighter, shallow water with a sand bottom, but when you get there – the bottom has been stirred up and is milky – with zero visibility – so not fishable.  So at 3:30 we started heading back to the dock – about an hour’s ride.   Buddy had been in and out of the water probably 70 or more times between 9 am and 3:30, and Cindy was concentrating, finding the traps, steering the boat (not an easy wheel to turn all day) and starting the compressor, for pretty much 6 and ½ hours straight!  I don’t know how they do it!  As I told you above,  just watching, riding in the boat was wearing me out!  It is HARD WORK!…and for the rest of my life I will appreciate the effort that went into my lobster dinner!

Buddy let us off at the dock and Cindy expertly backed the large trailer down the ramp for Buddy to trailer Bottom Time.  Cindy hit the exact spot on the first try!  I am ALWAYS impressed with Cindy – but the men who were cleaning their catch of Gray Snapper at the dock – were wowed by her, too!

We stopped in Marsh Harbour to fill the boat with gas (with gas so expensive here – it is VERY expensive to run the boat all day!) and to deliver the lobster tails to the wholesaler/exporter.  Buddy put the tails on the scale – 107 pounds!  Not a record day for him by any means, but since it was the 3rd fishing, he said going out he was hoping for at least 100 pounds – and he got it!  If people had not fished their traps, it would have been an even better day.

I am sorry to say that I did not get a picture of the final catch, but this is a picture of their ice chest loaded with lobster from one of their earlier fishing days this year.

BIG ice chests – FULL of lobster tails!!!

We drove back to Casuarina Point, and they dropped me at the house around 6 pm – a long day of hard work for them, but they didn’t show it!  As I said they are quite amazing!

Buddy saved some tails for me, and I feasted that night on FRESH lobster tails!!!…and he told me to cook one extra for a lobster omelet, which I enjoyed the next morning!!!

Cooking the chopped lobster and onion in butter…
Add the eggs…
A delicious, lobster omelet! YUM!

I didn’t do any of the work, but I certainly enjoyed the fruit of their work!  It is a day I will never forget – a treasured memory!  Thank you Buddy and Cindy!!!

P.S.  They are the most fun, hardworking, impressive couple.  I can’t help but want all our Abaco Palms Properties guests to have a chance to meet them, and as I said above, we plan to add more blog posts about bone fishing with Buddy and Island Hopping on Bottom Time, with Cindy and Buddy – two great opportunities to meet and learn from them.  Check with them to buy fresh seafood when you are here, too! – fish, lobster, conch fritter batter, or conch salad.  Buddy’s conch salad is THE BEST!!! – he COOKS, too!  (I SAID he can do ANYTHING!)