By Klaus Munk
Formerly fishing skipper
During the summer months, the time for night fishing for Norway Lobsters arrives. It is a time that many Læsø fishermen look forward to. The nights - and thereby also "the working days" - are relatively short. As a result, we can arrive in the harbour every morning and be home with the missus with fresh rolls for morning coffee. A couple of hours' sleep before noon, and then we have the whole afternoon to while away whilst enjoying the summer - a real life of ease.
The departure time will depend on where the fishing will take place and is typically one and a half hours before sunset. It is important to get the trawl into the sea before the sun sets as it is often around this time that the lobsters are out of their holes on the seabed. Norway lobsters can only be caught when they are up out of the holes, and it is more than science to calculate when this is going to happen - here we must also rely on both experience and luck. Just as one thinks one has calculated everything right and one pulls up the trawl with great expectations, alas, there are hardly enough lobsters to fill an open sandwich.
We arrive at the fishing ground just before the sun dives into the sea - in this case Fladvandet to the east of Læsø. The fishing tackle is lowered into the water, and if all goes according to plan, we can pull in the trawl at around midnight and it can be seen if the Goddess of Fortune has smiled upon us. The trawl is, in principle, just a funnel-shaped bag that is pulled along the seabed and kept open by means of two wings called doors, with one door on each side of the trawl's opening.
The leading seaman makes coffee for the skipper and then turns in for a couple of hours. All spots on the seabed have names that only the fishermen know. "The Damned Hole", "Meatloaf", "The Finger" and the "Dentures", just to mention a few of the quainter ones. We lowered our nets north of "Blackie", tow down past ”Byrum” and up through "The Narrow Gully" and turn some distance away, after which we tow back again and then pull north of "Blackie" at midnight, according to plan.
Excitedly we lift the trawl bag in onto the deck and open up - out tumbles a multicoloured mass of conches and small fishes, but also many Norway lobsters. We lower the gear into the sea again and repeat the trip, while the heap on deck is sorted - fish and other nice things to one side and Norway lobsters to another. After an hour and a half we have finished sorting, and the fish and Norway lobsters are cleaned and rinsed and packed in boxes. It will now be a couple of hours before the sun rises and we have to pull again. So now the skipper can go to his cabin and take a little nap, while his mate takes over the helm and makes sure he steers clear of reefs and wrecks on the seabed. We pull up again when the sun rises. And when the haul is on the deck, the gear is packed up and we head for home while we sort like mad to finish off before we reach the harbour. Sometimes one can see the cutters lying outside the harbour, sorting - that is usually a sign that the fishing has been "fairly good" as the fishermen did not have time to finish on their way home.
On the quay we are received by an expectant crowd, both tourists and local folks who are interested in hearing how the fishing went and if there is a possibility of buying a fish or a bag of lobsters. One of the things that is often asked - and usually with a Sealand accent - is "whether they are boiled"? But they aren't! The Norway lobster is red and does not change colour by boiling. The catch of the night is put down on the quay and picked up by Læsø Fishing Industry for further sale and processing, and we drive home and take a well-deserved morning nap, and then we are ready for the next night's expedition.
The Norway lobster lives on depths from 15 to 500 metres on a soft bottom, as opposed to the "real" lobster, which prefers gravel or a stony bottom. The Norway lobster lives in holes and gallery systems, from where it comes out to eat at night. It lives on small bottom animals, worms and crustaceans. The Norway lobster is also called Dublin Bay prawn. Læsø Fishing Industry is the biggest exporter of Norway lobsters in Northern Europe.