It’s 6:30 am on the west coast of Sweden. A slowly rising sun and the smell of ocean salts blends blissfully with the frost of a Scandinavian autumn morning breeze. With open lungs, we visit a quiet town, hidden away from Sweden’s forward-thinking cities. Hunnebostrand, a town separated from the fast-pace of Stockholm, has been stringing in lobster for generations. Lately, the idyllic town has become known as something of a Swedish ‘lobster mecca’. We needed in on this lobster safari (as we’ve affectionately named it). Fortunately, some lovely fishermen allowed us to join them at sea, as we went to catch the greatest lobster in the Nordic hemisphere.
early morning adventures
As we readied ourselves to meet Göran, our official lobster expert, our mitted palms glossed with sweat, as we mentally prepared ourselves to go on safari for the cute crustacean. Together with his two pals Niklas and Marcus, Göran has spent every autumn since 1991 fishing. That’s 26 autumns spent on lobster safari. He quickly shows us around his fishing cabin; a gorgeous wooden structure that’s been around since the late 19th century. We gracefully slip into our fishing attire and set sail.
lobster fishing for generations
Lobster fishing has been going on in Hunnebostrand – which currently has a population of under 2,000 – for generations. Further back than anyone we ask can recall (and we asked the entire town). When we reach rougher seas and try to pretend our motion sickness isn’t setting in, we get a genuine feeling for the history in these waters. Fishing used to be the main source of income for a majority of families here, and still is for the professional fishermen. Fishing enthusiasts are also welcomed with open arms. Since Marcus is working at the local lobster restaurant ‘Hummerkrogen’, most of this particular team’s catch is delivered straight into the business. Additionally, some are sold independently or handed to friends.
“I love the fishing, but I actually only eat lobster about three times a year”, says Göran.
“lobsters are smart”
The fishing season starts on the third Monday of September each year and carries through until December. Professional fishermen, as well as fishing enthusiasts, take to the water to find the best fishing spots – they also share tips and tricks, building on their knowledge and assuring their status as true experts.
Accordingly, the supply of lobster used to be better than it is now, and the lobsters are harder to find now than they used to be.
“In the early days you could go around with a fishing net in the harbour and catch them. But the lobsters are smart, they’ve learned and are now only found at the bottom of the sea under particular rock formations.”
Because of the shortage of lobster, fishing has been restricted across Sweden. It’s become progressively harder to catch the ‘black gold’ of the sea and some fishermen now have a hard time providing for themselves.
“We caught a mere eight lobsters this week between 12 cages. But that’s considered a lot compared to some other fishermen who make their living fishing here”.
prepping for the catch
We reach the first cage with hopes of seeing a lobster bonanza. Niklas and Marcus prepare by donning their elastic fishing gear that might not be out of place in an underground club. As the first cage is drawn up, Niklas explains the importance of his suggestive gloves.
“Jellyfish tentacles can easily surface with the rope, and a jellyfish sting is pretty gruesome. I’ve been stung multiple times in attempts to be macho. It’s really learning by doing around here”, Niklas laughs.
the wrong catch
To our novice delight, the first cage is full – muhc to our dismay, it turns out to be congested with crabs rather than their superior. Niklas and Marcus naturally seem displeased.
“You can’t compare crabs to lobsters. There are thousands of crabs in these waters and you can sell a dozen cages filled with crabs for the same price as just one lobster. That’s because they have way less edible meat. So we throw most of them back in and wait for the real deal.”
size does matter
With a yelp of delight, we celebrate by hugging our captain as the second cage is drawn to the surface to reveal not one but three lobsters! Now that’s lobster safari. Three adult lobsters scuttle in their cage. Due to fishing regulations, lobsters need to have fully matured before they can be taken home for dinner. Marcus pulls out a rather odd looking measuring tool to check if the lobster are at least nine cm from eye to tail. We’re good to go, and we’re having the time of our lives.
“This is our lucky cage. We always catch something with this”.
how to fish for lobster
Lobster fishing can be done if you own three things: a lobster cage, a boat and mackerel. First, fill the cages with mackerel in order to attract the lobster. The cages have trap doors, meaning that the lobster can enter but not exit. Using sonar technology, modern fishermen can spot the rock formations at the bottom of the sea to find the best spots to lower the cages. It’s usually the place where there’s a lot of vegetation or cracks in rocks where the lobster can hide. After waiting for a day, the cages are pulled up and if you’re lucky enough, lobsters have will be waiting in the cages.
swedish lobsters – an exclusive delicacy
Because of the cold water and slow maturity of the Swedish lobsters, the creatures caught in this part of the world are a little more tender and also sweeter than the Canadian equivalent. They are also considered to be highly exclusive. Sweden’s annual lobster auction sold the first few lobsters on the market for an astounding €5,000 ($7,500) per kilo. After premiere week however, the price substantially drops to around €60-80 ($90-120) per kilo.
make hunnebostrand fish again
Lobster fishing in Hunnebostrand is part of the daily grind. However, since it has gradually become more restrictive, participating is an incredibly unique experience. It has, therefore, become a grand tourist incentive during the fishing season. One can only hope that the locals continue to make their living on catching this exclusive, magnificent (and not to mention, adorable) creature.