09/11/2013 12:54 pm ET Updated Oct 29, 2013


Luck? No way. Think again.

I have been visiting the coast of Maine for over 60 years and my fascination with the process of lobster fishing has never slackened. For most of those 60 odd years I sort of assumed that luck had to be the predominant factor in the outcomes. Other factors over the years have been the advent of technology including bigger faster boats, radar, navigation plotters and better traps and related gear. Indeed those fishermen who were early adopters did gain temporary advantages over their competitors, who quickly caught on and up.

If there is luck in the process, it was in picking their ancestors. Many successful fishermen "inherited" a territory of informal rights from a father, grandfather or uncle, which are largely respected along the coast. Lobster people (yes, there are now quite few women who captain their own boats) who are new comers and make territorial "mistakes" often find their traps go missing regularly and there are stories of shot gun sounds coming across a quiet sea from time to time.

But, even with a good territory, and because the lobsters apparently are not fully or well informed of the popularity of where they hang out, things change all the time and what was a good territory last year often disappoints the next year.

So what does distinguish the successful vs. the runoff the mill fisher people year in and year out?

The consistently superior results are turned in by people who analyze, plan and act accordingly. Hard work is also important but it is not at the end of the day a sufficient condition.

Landlubbers might assume that, like flipping a coin many times comes out 50/50 over time, leaving a trap out in one place long enough would in due course attract lobsters.

Not so. First, not all underwater locations are alike. Some lobsters like deeper water; some like shallower; some like being closer to ledges etc. Lobster people who learn to think like a lobster get a big leg up on their competitors. Second, lobsters tend to like fresh bait and some perhaps catch on to what happens to their friends who get caught in those dratted boxes that contain lobster candy.

So, where and when to put and move traps in any territory is the biggest challenge and is the most important skill a lobster person can acquire.

The result is that like most things in life the distribution of accomplishments is along the well known bell curve.

The so called "fisherman's" luck is just a myth after all.

The answer is to be well organized, to study and learn the underwater ecologies [think like a lobster] plus consistently hard work.

Why should fishing be exempt from the fundamental laws of life particularly since man does have an advantage?