The Lobstah’ Whisperer strikes gold in Jersey!

 

Team IVS headed out today for some lobster hunting off the coast of New Jersey.  We sailed with Capt. Al aboard the Sea Lion, seven hearty souls with a common goal…lobster in the pot!  The day started off a bit overcast and raining, but more importantly there was no wind.  The affect of this was apparent as we cleared Manasquan Inlet – the Atlantic was flat as far as the eye could see.

Our first location was the wreck of the Mohawk, and early ‘passenger liner / cruise ship’, sailing from New York to Jacksonville and onward to Havana, Cuba.  It collided with another vessel on a crystal clear cold night in January, 1935.  Nineteen souls died, primarily from exposure, before the rest were pulled from the sea as the vessel slipped beneath the waves.  Originally it went down on it’s side, but six months later a summer storm uprighted it, Speigel Grove style.  In fact, with the depth at 80 ft to the sand, the masts were actually sticking up out of the water, and this is how it remained for until the Army Corps of Engineers cut it down by wire dragging it to allow safe passage over the wreck.  

All was good until WWII, and with the U-boat activity up and down the eastern seaboard, the Coast Guard was taking no chances.  German submarines were known to take advantage of structure on the bottom to hide alongside, masking their presence, so every time an anti-sub vessel would pass the Mohawk, they’d throw out a depth charge or two for good measure.  Although no U-boats were ever discovered, you can imagine the damage this caused to the remaining wreckage.  Today the site looks a bit more like Fred Sanford’s backyard than a ship, but you can figure out enough of the pieces to know you’re diving on a wreck. 

So we located the site and our able first mate Jen dropped down to tie into the wreck.  We followed as soon as the hook was set, and got right to work on our mission.  Watching most of the guys bear left, I opted for  a right turn at the anchor, dropped down low, fired up the canister light, and got down to business.  One, two, three bugs in the bag….good start….keep looking…four…..more….all keepers, being careful to gauge them right there and ensure they are legal before putting them in the bag.  Kicked up a nice flounder, lots of sea bass and blackfish there, sea robins walking about on their fins, and all the other typical Jersey sea life.  The water temp was 58 degrees, allowing me to dive without a hood and with light gloves, better to shove my arm in the holes to snag my objectives!  I was wearing a Whites Fusion, and this suit is fantastic with it’s form-fitting design.  Even with a medium weight undergarment on, I was able to dive with no weights other than my double steel 100’s.  The viz varied, but at times was easily 60 to 75 feet – Nice!

We got back up to the boat, and I had six bugs for my cooler.  The others did not score so well…OK..they were skunked!  So we talk a little about technique during our surface interval, and get them pumped up to do better on dive #2.  Because this wreck site is quite large, we opted to stay for our second dive on the same spot.  Four more bugs in my bag, and two for Matt Yaroch and his dad – way to go guys! 

Checking my personal biological meter, I recognize I am a quart low on nitrogen, so Capt. Al offers to make a third dive on another location.  We motor over to the “120” wreck, and we’re down to only two of us plus Jen making this one.  This is an old unidentifed wooden sailing vessel, and it has some fantastic lobster habitat on it, as well as fish life.  The problem is that the habitat is all through the wooden timbers and deck planking, giving the lobsters a huge advantage with being able to slip around a corner of far enough down a hole to be beyond the reach of the hunters.  Missed a few, but still managed to get one more in the bag, bringing my daily total to 11.  The rest of the team accounted for another 2 – what’s wrong with this picture??      

Finally it’s time to call it a day and we sail on back to the Brielle Boat Basin.  Hugs & handshakes, and I head home to boil up my bounty – we’ll be serving it up at Dutch Springs this weekend!

  

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