LEONARD ORTIZ, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
BY THE NUMBERS
15 pounds, 9 ounces
Weight of "Larry," a California spiny lobster caught by Dana Point resident Brendan Dirks
16 pounds, 1 ounce
Weight of the state record for a California spiny lobster caught in sport diving
Year that record was set
Maximum weight estimated for male California spiny lobsters
Sept. 27, 2014
Date the recreational lobster season started
Recreational lobster fisherman in the state
Commercial lobster fisherman
Sources: Brendan Dirks, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
DANA POINT â€“ Brendan Dirks said goodbye to Larry the lobster on Wednesday, saluting and then dropping him back into his ocean home two days after catching the nearly 16-pound whopper.
The 26-year-old seasoned spearfisher was free-diving in 20-foot waters with friend Ace Wallace at the Dana Point Headlands when he spied the California spiny lobster.
I immediately dropped my light and pretty much bear-hugged him, said the Dana Point resident. was a fight.
Dirks, who has been tracking this particularly large crustacean for months, ripped up his hand and wetsuit in the process. Hooting and hollering erupted when he realized he had the mystical lobster, dubbed Larry with the help of friends.
Technically weighing in at 15 pounds, 9 ounces, Larry is just shy of the state sport-diving record: a 16-pound, 1-ounce lobster caught by a scuba diver off of Catalina Island in February 1968, according to a 2012 list from California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
As one of the largest species of spiny lobsters, California males can weigh up to 26 pounds and measure 3 feet long, said Travis Buck, marine biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Larry thankfully avoided the fate of becoming a buttery dinner when Dirks decided to bring him to Dana Point Ocean Institute. But the institute already has several large lobsters, and encourages people to leave the big ones in the wild so they can breed baby lobsters, said Julianne E. Steers, the institute director of husbandry.
Dirks agreed, adding that the larger lobsters don't taste quite as good either.
The recreational fishing season, which recently opened, allows divers like Dirks to catch up to seven lobsters a day.
There is certainly fewer (lobsters) than several decades ago, but they're still out there, and Steers said, even in local waters around Laguna Beach and Dana Point.
With a pat of their spiny friend and a quick salute, Wallace and Dirks gently released Larry back to his ocean home.
Hopefully if another diver or fisherman ends up catching him, he will have the same respect and let him go, Dirks said.