Hoop Netting Tips & Tricks
1. I change out all the small floats found on most hoop nets. I use the larger professional "Bullet " type of foam floats. They are about 5 "x11 ", so they are significantly larger. Along with using the larger float, I further do two things to it to make it safer in my opinion and easier to see. First, I put a couple bands of reflective tape on them. I used S.O.L.A.S. (Safety Of Life At Sea) tape on my current set, but in the past I have used 3M reflective tape that the trailers that semi trucks pull are marked with. Either type of tape reflects well when shined on by a flashlight. In addition to the tape, I also use a cyalume stick on the float. This can help boaters see your floats if they're paying attention.
2. By using "Bait Cages ", you can make the hooping trip more organized. You can load them at home, and put them in a one gallon kitchen type reseal able plastic storage bag, and keep them ready to go in your freezer. Most of the mid sized Playmate or Igloo coolers with the center handles will carry five loaded bait cages and some ice. I keep the loaded bait cages in the freezer until the trip, then take them in the cooler to the launch. I then use tie wraps to secure the cages to the nets and get ready to go. When I return, I cut two tie wraps per bait cage, and put the bait cages back in the bags and back in the freezer when I get home. If I got any lobsters, I put them in the five gallon bucket I carry on the kayak, them put the ice in the bucket with them for the trip home. When they get iced down, it helps make them lethargic. Bait cages also significantly help make the bait harder to steal by pests like seals and such.
3. Probably the most important tip in here is LINE CONTROL. Some hoop nets come with up to one hundred feet of line on them stock. If most of your hooping is going to be done in fifteen to forty feet of water, why keep the extra line around to get tangled up? One of the worst things I see on the water is when someone uses a hoop net with eighty plus feet of line going to the float, in shallow water say thirty feet. If you have eighty feet of main line, and your trap is in thirty feet of water, where is the other fifty feet? Unless you plan ahead to tie it up somehow, you can have fifty feet of extra line just under the surface waiting to get tangled up in a propeller of a passing boat. This can be very dangerous for everyone involved, and steps should be taken to help avoid this.
4. Consider taking some extra stuff with you hooping, either in the boat or kayak. Take an extra flashlight, or at least some extra batteries. I also take a few cyalume sticks with me. I'll activate then when I get ready to drop the nets, and if one doesn't activate, I still want to have a backup to put on the float.
5. Carry an extra measuring gauge when hoop netting. I not only carry a backup gauge, but I put a small float on the gauge in case I drop it over the side. If I'm hooping and the crawl is on, the last thing I want to have to do is come in because I dropped my gauge over the side. Point is you want to have the most time on the water as possible, so plan ahead a bit if something goes over the side or batteries quit.
6. Handle lobsters as gently as possible. The tails have sharp edges on them, and can cut you. If you handle them by their antennas and/or legs, you can pull them off. If you handle them by their backs, or carapace they won't be able to flip their tail and possibly cut you, and you won't risk pulling of an antenna or leg.
7. Before I separate the tail from the carapace of the lobster, I put the lobster in a plastic grocery bag in the freezer for half an hour to help put them to sleep as it were. Then I remove them from the bag and if they don't move around I separate the tails at the point. I then put the carapace back in the bag and freeze it until it goes out in the trash. Right after I separate the lobster tail, I remove the digestive vein running through it. (See Cleaning Lobsters Page for details).
8. When pulling up your hoop nets, you should do it quickly and without angles. When setting up to pull your hoops, you should approach them under control. This is where a kayak really shines. I approach the hoop net and grab the three feet of tag line and set it over the side of the kayak, then I lift the float on the deck. I'll put just a bit of lift on the main line to see what kind of angle I would have if I pulled it up then. If there is little or no angle, I pull it up as quick as I can. I'll bring it out of the water, but beside the vessel or kayak. That way if there are crabs, maybe a irritated eel, or a fin fish you don't want you can just flip the net over and dump them back out. The less of an angle there is when you're pulling the hoop net up, the better. When a lobster feels the hoop raise up, it's gonna start trying to escape. If you have drastic angles in the nets when you are pulling them up, you could be making it easier for them to escape.