Every week, I look for it: the giant sign on the side of U.S. 1 in Lantana, its bright-red lettering with the words Fresh Lobsters Today scrawled in messy handwriting.
It means Capt. Fuge Hickman and his two sons, Bruce and David, have a fresh catch of Florida spiny lobsters for sale. At just $7 per pound, it's the deal of the day -- and the freshest one you'll find this side of the Caribbean.
A pity, really, because the trip to 846 N. Dixie Highway (to the docks behind Kelley Marine) isn't just about buying lobster at a really, really great price.
It's also a crap shoot -- luck of the draw, if you will. You never know what the boys will pull out of their traps, and many times there's more than just 2-pound-apiece spiny lobster.
"We'll get fish that like to wander in the traps too, because they like it in there. We get some porgy, trigger fish, mutton snapper from time to time," says Fuge.
If you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a slipper lobster, he adds, a rare -- but ugly -- brown lobster whose flesh is famed for being more tender and sweet than its spiny or Maine brethren. Every now and then, the Hickmans will pick one up during their daily trek checking around 1,500 traps in the 50-mile stretch from Hillsboro Inlet north to Juno pier.
It was a trip Fuge has made with his boys since they were children, back when he sold his lobster wholesale. That was until last year, when he decided to take a different route and sell directly to the consumer.
"The market price was so low, I don't even want to tell you [what it was]," says Fuge's first mate aboard the captain's 34-foot Crusader. "Now, people love that we're here. You can't get anything cheaper or fresher."
These days, Fuge, who has been fishing the South Florida waters for more than 30 years, says he never has trouble selling the lobster.
"It's been a good year [this year]," he says. "We're here every day during lobster season [August through April] around 2 p.m. We leave the dock at 5 a.m., make our rounds, and get back to the dock to sell what we've caught, straight out of the water."
Captain Fuge's Lobster Shack
The Docks at Kelley Marine
846 N. Dixie Highway