How To Measure Lobster

When using hoop nets for lobsters, when you pull up a lobster you are required to immediately measure it to make sure it meets or exceeds the minimum requirement of Three and one-fourth inches measured in a straight line on the mid-line of the back from the rear edge of the eye socket to the rear edge of the body shell. When I measure lobsters, I prefer it to be at least a quarter inch or more over the minimum size to be safe in case the gauge I’m using is off by a sixteenth of an inch or so.

I also HIGHLY RECOMMEND measuring your lobster gauge with an accurate measuring device like an accurate ruler, dial calipers, machinest die rule or the like before using it to verify the opening size. Inexpensive lobster gauges made from plastic and aluminum are often off in their measurement, so it’s best you know BEFORE using it if it’s accurate or not.

Hoopnetting Equipment

We’ll cover the standard hoop netting or hoop equipment in this section. There are some modifications to the hoop nets listed in our “Tips & Tricks” section also.

HOOP NETS: These are the most important piece of hooping gear we can have. They came in various sizes, but the brand I use come in 32 inch and 36 inch diameter sizes. They come with 100 feet of line, small floats and a bait pouch in the bottom. Although we will modify them in short order, the stock hoop nets are very good quality and very serviceable. Because I usually hoop net from my kayak, I use the 32 inch diameter hoop nets. The hoop netter’s who usually use their skiffs or other powered craft like the 36 inch hoop nets also.

LOBSTER GAUGES: The state in which I live ( California) requires us to have a measuring gauge immediately available while hoop netting for lobsters and/or crabs. Most of the lobster gauges are made from either aluminum or plastic. Which you use is a personal choice. I have used my aluminum measuring gauge for years with no ill effects, and plan to use it for many more. Besides carrying the aluminum lobster gauge as my primary gauge, I also carry a spare plastic measuring gauge in case I lose the aluminum one.

BAIT CAGES: The hoop nets already come with a sewn in pouch in the bottom, but I like to use a bait cage for a few reasons. First, you can pre load your cages before the trip. When you get to the launch, you simply attach the cage to the bottom pouch on the hoopnet, and you’re baited up ready to go. The second reason is that we have a seal epidemic here. They like hoop nets for an easy meal, and will tear your bait out of the pouch if they can. The use of a bait cage discourages them from bothering your hoop nets too much. What do you bait hoop nets with? Alot of us will catch mackerels beforehand and freeze them and be ready to go. Some visit their local fish market for pieces that are not normally sold to consumers and use those. I’ve also heard of guys using chicken, but I haven’t seen this firsthand with anyone I have hooped with.

To secure the bait cage to a hoop net, alot of us use plastic electrical tie-wraps, say four to six inches in length. We tie-wrap the bait cage for the evening, and use cutters to cut the plastic and remove the bait cage from the hoop net when we’re finished.

GLOVES: Lobsters have spines on their body for protection, I believe gloves are important while hooping. There are many types and price ranges to choose from. You can get started using the orange gripper gloves that help protect you, or you can get the better ones for diving that have a leather palm piece sewn in that offers more protection. I also recommend taking a spare pair of gloves hoop netting with you for a few reasons. Regardless of the type of gloves, I really suggest using them while hoop netting.

LIGHTS: Because we usually hoop net at night, we use flashlights and alot of headlamps. I carry spare batteries for each type of light and a spare light as well. You need to clearly see what you bring up in your hoop net before bringing it aboard your kayak or boat, as I’ve seen more than a few eels and scorpion fish brought up in hoop nets.

CUTTERS & PLIERS: I always carry a pair of cutters and needle nose pliers with me on a boat or kayak. You may need to cut the bait cage free from the hoop net, or cut a part of the net for some reason, If you get a fish tangled in the hop net as they often do, you can use the needle nose pliers to separate them from the net.

SAFETY ITEMS: This could be an entire section in itself, and I think it’s very important to plan ahead before going out. Safety while on the water should be a primary concern of yours, especially while hoop netting at night. If you are pro active about safety, you’ll plan accordingly. If you’re not a safe person or don’t think about safety matters until after something happens, this may not be an activity for you.

Hoopnetting Tips & Tricks 2

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.

Hoopnetting 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.

Dealing With Sea Lions

Sea Lions are seriously party poopers and can ruin a great night of hoop netting. Over a period of time it seems that Sea Lions have learned how to pull baits from the hoop nets no matter how well you secure them. It’s almost a game with them, you can literally keep baiting your nets and watch them continue to dive down and eat the bait and tear up your nets. Don’t even waste your time if you see a Sea Lion going after your nets, you will literally exhaust your bait supply and walk home empty handed with torn up nets. I have heard one method where you tie the bait to the bottom side ofthe hoop net although they still can cause trouble to the net if you do this. I have heard that Promar manufactures a newly designed hoop net that incorporates an additional piece of netting material on the center ring forming a puch to hold the bait between the two layers. These are absolutely essential to any area that Sea Lions dwell. The design is so good that the company has even patented the idea. If Sea Lions are around and you are using the single bottom nets, you are wasting your time and better off in a new area altogether.

How Long Should I Leave Down the Nets?

Hoopnetting is great! Seriously who doesn’t get a kick out of hoopnetting? Here is my strategy for a fantastic hoop netting trip. I typically set around 5 or so nets that cover a large area as it gets dark. Then I go back and pull the first one and then on to nets 2 3 4 and 5. I have pulled nets ebfore that was half eaten in the short time between pulls. Pretty amazing actually. Just means the critters nabbed some and left before the pull. Once I start finding an area that has good catches I concentrate more on those areas and put more nets out. If catching is really slow, I sometimes even try re-baiting with some unsoaked bait and move the nets around again a little bit. I don’t sit and wait for the critters to find my nets. I move them around alot and hope to find the concentration of them all.

Hoopnetting Safety

Honestly hoopnetting is dangerous. There are many hazards that contribute to it that make it a dangerous environment. Operating a boat close to shore/or rocks at night is only the tip of the iceberg of problems. Now add several or even dozens of loats all with varying amounts of rope attached tot hem. Some marked with lights or LEDs and others not at all.  All having the ability to get entangled in your propeller possibly stalling the engine or tying up the props, disabling your boat. Add the excitement of a few beers, a wet slippery deck add a big swell or other boats going through. The hazards are endless! Make sure to be smart and cognitive about whats going on and to stay alert at all times.

Hoopnetting Transportation

Now let’s go over some of the types of transportation that you can use to hoop net. First off smaller boats are obviously a better bet for hoopnetting due to the necessary maneuvering that is needed. The smaller boats allow you to get around the floats and rope and being close to the water surface allows you to easily pick up the floats rather than performing aerobatics to do so. Not to mention if you have a smaller boat and your motor dies it is easier to row your way to safety. Also pulling the ropes from a sitting position also has many benefits over standing up on a rolling and pitching wet deck of a larger boat. Most importantly a smaller boat allows for increased visibility in just about 360 degrees rather than a larger boat that has a much worse visibility.

Sure bigger boats are much more comfortable on the water and you can obviously get a larger bag limit for the night but consider the options before choosing the larger boat. The higher the horsepower of the boat the more damage the props will due to the ropes.

Kayaks are the new rave for hoop netting. Kayakers never have to worry about getting your rope tangled in the prop. If you cannot afford a boat and you want to be ablet o hoop net areas that require smaller vessels consider a kayak. Keep in mind though that it can get pretty intimidating being out in the dark with a bloody hoop net bait on board so this may not be for the faint of heart.

For those of you that don’t have a kayak or boat then public piers are a graet place to hoop net. The structure is already there and many Southland piers have artificial reefs built very close by. Some piers can produce lobster year after year and not many fisherman hoopnet from public piers. Keep in mind that laws are different for state although typically you can have 2 hoop nets per person on any public pier. It’s really a great way to get started.

Best Locations to Hoopnet

Improving on the post a few weeks ago lets discuss the best locations to Hoopnet. Lobster’s live and hide in holes, crevices, and caves! Keep this in mind when you are out looking for places to set your nets.

During the dailight hours Lobsters will be hiding in these types of structures. Althought at night the Lobster may leave his structure and hunt for food in the mask of the night. A nice spot for a Lobster will be in 15-80 feet of water depth where a known structure is near by. This includes things like Public piers, natural kelp reefs, jetties, eel grass beds, break walls, artificial reefs, harbors, and sunken wrecks are the best locations for Lobster habitat.

After locating such hiding places look for the sand and mud flats immediately surrounding the structures. Remember that you don’t want to drop your nets on top of a wreck or rock pile. Lobsters tend to eat from the bottom of the net and if it lands on an uneven bottom you don’t want that. My personal advice is to use sonar when possible so that you know exactly where your putting your net.

Fine Tuning Your Hoopnetting Skills


I have spent a great deal of time learning everything I can about this sport. I read books, surf the internet, talk to everyone I can at the docks, and spend alot of time on the phone with other hoop netters. I am constantly trying to find a way to get a limit of lobster quicker and bigger than my last trip out. What I have learned helps, however I can not ignore the fact that I am regularly out-fished by someone with little or no experience hoop netting. The bottom line is, if you are in the right place at the right time, you will get them and get them quick even with “bottom of the line” gear.


Big Lobsters 5-10 pounds are caught by many hoop netters every season. The larger bugs tend to hold on to the net and/or bait and won’t let go, even when they have been boated. They are clumsy, heavier and slower than the smaller bugs. Once a large Lobster crawls into your net, there is a good chance you will land him. Sometimes the larger bugs will be partially hanging over the edge of the net when you get the net up. The best you can do to help land the big ones is to use the largest diameter, deepest net you can get your hands on. Some hoop netters claim your chances for catching a trophy Lobster are better very late in the evening and late in the season.


This is what really makes hoop netting fun! The bait in your hoop net will attract almost anything that lives in the ocean. Some of the items you will catch in your hoops will amaze you. A partial list of what you may pull up includes Sea Lions, Round Sting Rays, Spider Crabs, Octopus, Sea cucumbers, Swell Sharks, Swimming Crabs, Snails, Horn Sharks, Rock Crabs, Bass, Rockfish, Sculpin, Bat Rays, Smooth Hound Sharks, Croaker, and Starfish. All of the different bycatch really keeps the pulling interesting. You never know what you are going to pull up. Last week, a friend got a big Bat ray in his net. The net was swimming around with the Bat ray completely inside of the net. While pulling the net, the Bat Ray actually took line from his gloved hands.