California Spiny Lobster

From 40th Trip: Catalina on the Spectra

The California spiny lobster, Panulirus interruptus, is common from Point Conception, California to Magdalena Bay on the west coast of Baja California, Mexico. Among the more than 40 species of spiny lobsters known worldwide, the California spiny lobster is one of the largest. Males can reach three feet long and weigh up to 26 pounds. There is currently no reliable method for aging lobster, but the California spiny lobster is thought to live for 50 years or more.

Like all crustaceans, the California spiny lobster must shed, or molt, its outer shell repeatedly to grow, and may molt about 40 times before reaching legal harvest size. Unlike the East Coast lobster, Homarus
americanus, the California spiny lobster lacks large, powerful front claws. To defend itself, it relies on sharp spines on the body shell, tail, and whip-like antennae. If these fail, the lobster can rapidly swim away from danger by flexing its powerful tail. Common spiny lobster predators include giant sea bass, California sheephead, cabezon, horn shark, leopard shark, octopus, sea otters, and man.

The spiny lobster is a nocturnal scavenger that feeds on fishes, sea urchins, clams, mussels, snails, worms, algae, or even weak or injured lobster. During the day, it shelters in caves and crevices. Rocky reefs and other hard-bottom substrates are its preferred habitat, but it may also favor manmade habitats such as jetties, piers, rock seawalls, breakwaters, artificial reefs, and other structures that provide food and shelter.

Surfgrass and eelgrass beds can also be productive lobster hunting grounds. At night, when it is out foraging, lobster can sometimes be found on exposed sand or mud bottoms. Spiny lobster usually move into shallow water during spring and summer, and migrate to deeper water in fall and winter. Adult lobster have been found as deep as 240 feet during the winter, possibly to avoid the effects of stormy weather.

About the Author

Sean loves to fish in Southern California and this site is his journal of his adventures in fishing. He started fishing when he was a little guy with his dad David, and has continued to this day with his family. In his day job, Sean has been a graphic designer for over 15 years, designing everything from in-store displays and signage for supermarkets to e-commerce auction sites for an online consumer electronics company. He was a web and graphic designer then later an art director for McMullen Argus Publishing (Primedia), building and working on sites for Lowrider Magazine and Super Chevy, plus 30 other automotive magazine sites. Sean seized the opportunity to teach other aspiring designers - a passion that took him first to Learning Tree University and then to Golden West College in Huntington Beach, CA, where he has been an integral part of the renowned digital arts department for more than ten years. Throughout his teaching career, Sean maintained a freelance business, designing for clients including the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards), Image Comics and many more. See his work at