As the sun begins to set over Shark River, the boat “Fully Loaded” approaches the dock. As the name suggests, it’s fully loaded with lobsters.
“It’s like gold mining. When you come in with the boxes full, it’s gold,” said Joe Horvath, co-owner of Jersey Shore Lobster Brothers.
It’s a family business for Joey and Adam Horvath. How do they catch the lobsters?
“Well, people think you just throw a trap out there and get them like a crab, but they’re totally not like a crab. You have to go out, you have to find what water depth they’re in, you have to find where they’re at. At certain times of the season they’re shallower, they’re deeper,” said Joey.
NOAA Fisheries indicates revenue from American lobster landings in New Jersey totaled over $2.2 million in 2015. Joey’s been out on the open waters in all sorts of weather conditions.
“Mother Nature, when you’re out there, is unforgiving and she beats you up. But when you catch, and you make a lot money, and you’re working hard with your own hands it’s very fulfilling because I don’t depend on anybody but me,” Joey said.
The brothers insist there’s a common misperception that you can only get lobsters from New England.
“There’s lobsters in New Jersey and most people don’t believe that. They all think they come from Maine,” Adam said.
“We fish about eight miles off, it’s called the Hudson Shelf, or the mud hole. It goes all the way out to the canyons. We follow the edges, the bottoms, and we read them and fish them,” Joey said.
The lobstermen typically fish 300 to 400 traps a day. They bait the traps with bunker and skate fish to catch the lobsters.
“An empty trap is a heavy trap, and they are really heavy. But when they’re full, they are really heavy but they come right over the side because everyone’s a dollar bill, and you’re happy, and everyone’s cheering and you’re ringing the bell,” Joey said.
Once Joey and his crew pull up a trap they check the lobster’s size and toss the small ones back overboard. The fishermen band the claws and put the lobsters on ice. New bait is hung in the traps. Eventually they make their way back to the shore where Joey’s team fills Point Lobster Company’s truck with their fresh catch. They also sell to customers right on the dock.
“There’s great lobsters in Jersey. There’s lots of them, they’re fresh and they’re absolutely wonderful,” said customer Tim Fitzpatrick.
Although the lobstermen enjoy their job they admit it’s not easy work and they say you have to love it. The days are long, sometimes being out for 18 hours, but they insist the reward is well worth it and they can’t imagine doing anything else.