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How to catch the first lobster of the year: blog

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Photo: Oliver Gee
07:37 CEST+02:00
The Local's Oliver Gee joined fishermen on Sweden's west coast seeking the first lobster catch of the year. Follow the journey.
7.00 Good morning and welcome to day two of the West Coast lobster season.
 
'Day two?' I hear you say. 'Day two? What about day one?'
 
Well, the official lobster premiere - the day on which fishermen, locals and tourists are allowed to begin the hunt for the black gold of these parts - was on Monday. Dozens of boats chugged out beyond the archipelago to lay down their lobster buckets as dawn broke.
 
They returned to shore with nothing but anticipation for today - when everyone heads back out to sea to recover their crates. Some will be disappointed - and therein lies the excitement - but many will return with the catch of the year.
 

Sunrise at the Hotel Koster
 
For the pros that can mean big bucks at the Gothenburg fish market - the first batch in 2011 sold for an astounding 102,000 kronor ($14,269) per kilogramme - but for amateurs like us, it hopefully just means a jolly good meal.
 
In the hotel bar last night, fishermen gathered and shared stories about previous lobster hauls. One of them told me a story about a blue lobster he caught - at least three kilos, he claimed - which he was forced to throw back into the sea. 
 
 
I hinted that I didn't believe him and he scrolled through his phone and showed me a picture. There it was, a gigantic lobster of the most amazing glossy blue. I suggested that he should send me the picture so I could share it in this story, he politely refused. We'll be taking the memory of old bluey to our graves.  
 
Other fishermen told me stories of their own big catches. I resisted the urge to say "We're going to need a bigger boat" as I'm not sure how familiar Swedish fishermen are with Hollywood movies. I'll try later.
 
7.15 My boat is leaving in fifteen minutes.
 
Pavona II
 
Captain Ahab had the Pequod, Jack and Rose had the Titantic, and we have the mighty Pavona II. 
 
Anchors away!
 
08:05 Meanwhile, at the Gothenburg fish market...
 
...the season's very first lobster has now been sold, setting the buyer back 11,500 kronor ($1,608) - or 28,750 kronor per kilogramme. But don't let your jaw drop too low - that's only a fraction of what the delicacy could cost.
 
Let's not forget the pricetag was 102,000 kronor ($14,269) per kilogramme in 2011.
 
The man who won the first lobster at the Gothenburg auction was prepared to pay more than what he did. 
 
"The lobster is a bit small but there's nothing wrong with the price," Per-Arne Korshag told news agency TT after examining his purchase. "I was willing to go up to 15,000 kronor."
 

Korshag with his lobster. Photo: Thomas Johansson/TT
 
 
 
08:15 First catch of the day

Just crabs.

08:39 BREAKING NEWS!

First catch!

Well there it is - our first lobster of the day - and it's a beauty. And it was me who pulled in the crate, which apparently is lucky. The captain has kissed the lobster and we are moving on.

I didn't get a kiss, for the record.

Not sure if I get a cut of the 11,000 kronor bounty or at least a claw - but I'll take either at this point.
 

The Local's Oliver Gee catches a lobster

Captain Johan (standing behind me above) is not particularly impressed, though. "I once caught one with claws the size of my hands. A meal in itself," he says. 

09:02 Meanwhile in Stockholm, we're all itching to get a piece of the action. It's been said that lobster fishing season is "like Christmas" for western Swedes - only without the herring.

If you like the sound of fishing for lobster in Sweden, you have plenty of options. In fact, there are plenty of places which offer fishing packages, such as Fjällbacka and Sea Lodge Smögen.

And if fishing sounds fantastic but you'd rather opt for oysters, there's also a shellfish adventure in Lysekil - and you can enjoy the spa as soon as you get back from a day on the sea.

We can just taste it already. A fresh-caught dinner of lobsters with fresh bread, mussels cooked in wine, and plenty of delicious decadence. 

09:27 "Kör!" yells captain Johan, which I can only assume means "Do it right now".

On cue, another fisherman casts the empty pot out into the sea.

The crates aren't coming in full and the tension is high. But we have 14 pots in total, still plenty of time to snag the big one.

They're letting us journalists pull in the pots that have been sitting out since yesterday morning, and this one feels heavy.

Daniel, a fisherman and chef, is wearing his lucky headband.

"How heavy does it feel?" he asks me.

I just shrug. About a minute later (the crates are up to 25 metres deep in the waters), a crate surfaces with a familiar orange and black shape inside. The group gathers around to take pictures.

I've pulled in another lobster - a big one.

A Swedish photographer is capturing it all from the roof of the little Pavona II. The captain is smiling.

The lobster looks less impressed, and he's tossed in with the other one, bound for the dinner plate tonight.

On to the next one, ahoy!

09:41 Speaking of the dinner plate - what do you do with a Swedish lobster once you've caught (or bought) one?

Prepare it Swedish style, of course!

Johan Sköld, the head chef at Hotel Koster (where Oliver Gee is staying), has a killer recipe for lobster soup. It's super easy and can be made with frozen lobsters as well. See the recipe, along with step-by-step pictures, at the Swedish Food site here.


Swedish lobster soup - click for recipe

09:50 A London-based writer on board isn't too impressed with the haul, but says he's having a blast.

"A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work," he says with a chuckle. He also laughs when he learns that the Swedish word for lobster is hummer.

A Swedish journalist is comparing the day to "The Deadliest Catch" on TV. I'm not sure she's actually seen the show - but she seems happy.

One of the photographers has a real way with words.

"Yesterday I tagged along with some fisherman and we caught some fresh oysters. The experience was so amazing, it was like childbirth - and I should know."

She was being serious. I'll be sure to ask her if today is comparable with childbirth too, just have to wait till she gets off the roof.

10:02 Time to quote Jaws and see what happens. 

"Hey Daniel, have you ever caught so many lobsters that you've said, 'We're gonna need another boat'?" I ask.

He bursts out laughing. 
 
"I've never said that before. My record is 27 lobsters in one day," he responds, adding that one crate alone had five lobsters. 
 
"And for the record, Jaws is one of my favourite movies," he adds.
 
10:10 Those of you who are not crustacean connoisseurs may be wondering at this point why all of these lobsters are black or brown, but those on your dinner plate are red.
 
Well, besides red being a much more appealing colour, there are natural reasons for the change.
 
TT
 
Lobster shells have many different pigments, usually giving them a dull colour which helps them to blend in. But most of the pigments can't take the heat. That is to say that they break down when the crustacean is cooked.
 
Meanwhile the red pigment, astaxanthin, takes heat like a happy Swede in a sauna - and gets even redder.
 
10:20 So where is all this going down? Here you can see the approximate location of our reporter Oliver Gee and his freshly-caught lobsters:
 

10:40 Well, that's the last of the crates and we scored a total of two lobsters.

I pulled them both in, if you're keeping score. 

No one is too pleased with the catch, but that's fishing. There's probably a good metaphor in here somewhere. Captain Johan seems to be smiling still, however, and Daniel and I are getting into a conversation about the movie Jaws. He turned out to be a film buff.

As Daniel dissects the performance of Richard Dreyfuss, we reach the shore, disembark, and the journalists take selfies with the lobsters - and the bait.

Someone says the word "Shellfies", which I was ready to name pun of the day, but I'm not certain that it wasn't just an accidental mispronunciation.

Now we're heading back to the hotel again to eat the catch.

Incidentally, the hotel is brilliant. It's sprawled over a hill with seaviews from every corner. My room had 180 degrees of seaview from the bedroom alone. But more on this later, the pot is boiling. 


Strömstad, the closest town to the Koster Islands, on Sweden's mainland.

10:50 Well that's it for Oliver's journey on the sea - but the adventure is far from over. How will they dine on the catch, we wonder? And what will he do next?

Stockholm may be Sweden's largest city, but that doesn't mean that's where all the excitement is. There's plenty of fun to be had on the other side of Sweden, so why not go west? 

West Sweden boasts a museum entirely devoted to watercolour art, Sweden's largest botantical garden, and a mind-blowing range of outdoor experiences - not all of which are boat-bound, so even the seasick have options. 

11:10 ...and now it's time for lunch!

And what do you know - they turned red.

 
13:03 Final thoughts:
 
Anyone who knows me at all knows how I feel about shellfish - and lunch today was no exception. We gobbled them down, they were cooked to perfection by the team at Hotel Koster. The dish marked the last in a strong run of meals from the kitchen, delicious to the end. And there's something to be said about eating seafood that was still in the water that morning.
 
As we pull away from the island on the Koster ferry, I'm already thinking about how much I'd love to come back to this place. The hotel manager, Maria, took me aside before I left and explained how the hotel is transformed during the summer. "It's perfect for weddings," she explained. "There's room to seat 500". 
 
 
And I'm not surprised. Not only is the hotel a fantastic getaway spot, but the staff is friendly and helpful and the kitchen team ensure a good time. 
 
Now we're out of here - off to Strömstad and then back home.
 
Highlights:
  • Pulling in the first lobster of the day
  • Eating said lobster
  • A photographer comparing oyster fishing to childbirth
  • Peppering my conversations with Jaws quotes
  • The fact that our captain was called captain Jonas
Of course, I could go on, but the story is over, the lobsters are getting digested, and the next fleet of boats are already out looking for tomorrow's catch. If you want my recommendation - make the trip to the Koster Islands. Catch yourself a lobster. You won't regret it. 
 
 
Thanks for reading.
 
13:38 Well, there you have it. You're utterly convinced that a trip to west Sweden must be a part of your future (at least we are). So now there's just one question - How do you get there?
 
You can find loads of travel information here
 
More specifically, if you're coming from Stockholm you can catch a cheap flight from Arlanda Airport to Landvetter in Gothenburg. You can also take the SJ railway - the picturesque train trip takes between three and six hours depending on your choice of train.
 
From Oslo in Norway the journey is even quicker, as west Sweden is just across the border. Hop on for a quick train ridie, or a super-speedyflight if that's your preferred mode of travel.
 
If you're coming from Copenhagen you also have the option of taking a ferry to Gothenburg, in addition to SJ trains and flying
 
So go get some shellfish!
 
 

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