Some questions behind why lobsters walk and where they are going?

So why do lobsters walk? Here at Life League Gear and Lobster League Gear we have our own opinions. Check out these great articles and you decide! It's so phenomenal that lobsters can sense gravitational pull. 

Lobsters take a walk on the ocean floor after hurricanes and no one knows why

Steve Waters/Special to the Miami Herald

The strong waves kicked up by Hurricane Nicole along Florida’s Atlantic Coast will make for great lobstering this week.

After major storms that churn the ocean, divers and snorkelers look forward to a lobster walk when the seas subside and the water clears enough to see the crustaceans walking in a line in the sand. Scientists don’t know why lobsters, which are informally called “bugs,” do this, but it is a sight to behold when dozens of bugs walk north in formation in 8 to 20 feet of water off local beaches.

Lobstering expert Jim “Chiefy” Mathie said there was a major lobster walk last month following Hurricane Ian, which made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast in late September. The turbulent waters caused by the storm resulted in a walk that lasted for two weeks according to Mathie, a retired Deerfield Beach Fire-Rescue Division chief and the author of “Catching the BUG: The Comprehensive Guide to Catching the Spiny Lobster,” which is available at South Florida dive shops and online at

Given the rough surf along the coast caused by Nicole, which passed through the region Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Mathie said he expects to see lobsters walking on Tuesday.

“It usually happens five days after a storm,” said Mathie, who will head offshore in his boat to dive as soon as seas calm. “There is a lot of turbidity in the water, and when that clears, you’ll be able to see the bugs walking.”

After a hurricane several years ago, Mathie and his friends went diving a few days after the storm and the water was so dirty, he said the only way to tell he was on the bottom was when he touched down on it. Despite the poor visibility, he managed to shoot a red grouper with his speargun and one of his dive buddies caught a few lobsters.

Catching lobsters is much easier when they are walking. Snorkelers can swim from the beach, look for the line of lobsters and use a net or snare to capture their daily limit of six bugs.

Mathie said that during the walk after Hurricane Ian, commercial lobster scuba divers that he knows simply sat on the bottom in the sand and waited for the lobsters to walk to them. Those divers easily caught their commercial daily limit of 250 bugs.

What Mathie and his dive buddies like to do is check shallow spots off Deerfield Beach and Pompano Beach by having someone jump in the water with a dive mask, snorkel and fins. Once walking lobsters are located, Mathie’s crew will go to the bottom with their scuba tanks and pick out the six biggest bugs that they see.

“After Ian, we saw as many as 100 lobsters walking in a line,” Mathie said. “When we’d take one or two, the line would break up a little, and then there’d be like 20 walking in a line.”

He added that typically the bigger lobsters are at the head of a line. Mathie also said that anglers on area fishing piers snagged some lobsters with hooks on their fishing lines, which is illegal.

Law enforcement officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are out on the water and on area beaches when lobsters are walking to make sure people are following the rules. Anyone catching lobsters must have a saltwater fishing license, which costs $17 for Florida residents, and a $5 spiny lobster permit.

Spiny lobsters must have a minimum carapace length of more than 3 inches and must be measured in the water. Possession and use of a measuring device is required at all times. Lobsters must remain in whole condition while in or on the water. No egg-bearing females may be taken.

Dive flags on boats must be at least 20 by 24 inches and have stiffeners to keep the flags unfurled. Dive flags on floats for those snorkeling or diving off the beach must be a minimum of 12 by 12 inches. For all lobster regulations, visit

Lobsters stop walking when they find new homes in the reefs and rockpiles off South Florida. Mathie said it’s not unusual then to find groups of bugs gathered under a ledge or coral head, which makes catching them almost as easy as when they’re walking.

“They seem to be in a trance,” Mathie said. “It’s like they’re saying ‘Catch me, catch me.’ So we take the biggest one first, then work our way through them.”

After getting a quick limit, Mathie and his buddies then grab their spearguns and hunt for grouper and mutton snapper. The sandy water stirred up by the storms forces the fish to head offshore. As the water clears, the hungry fish return to the reefs, often as shallow as 30 to 50 feet.

How the Spiny Lobster Finds Home: Magnetism

By Anahad O'Connor

  • Jan. 7, 2003

A handful of animals, like migratory birds and sea turtles, are famed for their extraordinary ability to navigate by reading small variations in the earth's magnetic field. Now it appears that a lowly invertebrate, the Caribbean spiny lobster, shares this same built-in navigational sense.

A study in the current issue of the journal Nature reports that spiny lobsters and possibly other invertebrates, once thought to be too primitive to possess such an advanced navigational mechanism, can travel over long distances at night and find their way home using only the earth's magnetic field to guide them.

''This is not only the first invertebrate to demonstrate this magnetic map sense but also the clearest example of true navigation in an animal,'' said Larry Boles, an author of the study and a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina.

Spiny lobsters, found in tropical areas worldwide, are different from the bright red clawed lobsters that are popular in seafood restaurants and grocery stores.

Mr. Boles and his co-author, Kenneth Lohmann, became interested in spiny lobsters when they noticed that they often left their dens at night to forage over large areas but had little trouble returning to the same dens, even in complete darkness.

So, to test the spiny lobster's homing abilities, they caught several in the Florida Keys and took them to a marine laboratory about 10 miles away.

During the trip, they kept the lobsters in an opaque container and in water from the collection site so they would not have any useful visual or chemical cues.

At the testing site, the lobsters were placed in a tank and tethered to an electronic tracking system that measured the direction in which they tried to walk.

''It was amazing,'' Mr. Lohmann said. ''We covered their eyes and had them in a lab that they had never been to before, yet they always figured out where they were relative to the collection site and walked in the direction of their home.''

To find out whether the lobsters were using the earth's magnetic field, the researchers placed a magnetic coil around the tank that could produce different fields and trick the lobsters into thinking they were somewhere else.

''When we produced a magnetic field found at a location north of the site, the lobsters walked south,'' Mr. Lohmann said. ''And when we produced a field similar to one found at an area south of the site, they walked north. Somehow, they could always figure out exactly where they were.''

This proved that the lobsters not only had a directional or compass sense, but also the ability to determine where they were geographically by relying only on the earth's magnetic field -- similar to the way a person can use a global positioning system device to determine geographic location.

This G.P.S.-like ability, also called true navigation, has been hinted at in sea turtles, migratory birds and one species of salamander, Mr. Boles said.

But most scientists did not expect to see such a complex system in invertebrates.

''People have studied other invertebrates like ants and bees,'' Mr. Boles said. ''They have sophisticated navigational systems but not true navigation. What we're seeing in the spiny lobster is a first.''

What may be enabling the lobsters to sense magnetic fields is the mineral magnetite, the same material used for compass needles. Magnetite was detected in lobsters, the researchers said, and has been found in other animals that have magnetic maps.

Mr. Lohmann has looked at true navigation in sea turtles but says that, at this point, the strongest evidence for a G.P.S.-like ability in animals is provided by spiny lobsters. He and Mr. Boles intend to find out whether other lobsters have similar systems but, for now, want to concentrate on the spiny lobster.

''We want to know what features of the earth's field they are detecting,'' Mr. Lohmann said. ''This is so new that there is still a lot more to discover.''



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