The two-day lobster season is held the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday each July.
By: Will Claunch, Photo Credit: Dale Sanders
Start double-checking your dive gear now, the recreational spiny lobster season will soon be open in Florida waters. The special two-day sport season—that takes place on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July—opens July 25 and 26 this year. After the mini-season, the regular spiny lobster season runs August 6 through March 31.
To legally take spiny lobster, divers must possess a saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit (stamp). A spiny lobster’s carapace must measure at least 3 inches to be boated. Have a measuring device handy so that lobster catches can be checked and double-checked before being taken out of the water. Also, remember to check their underside before removing them from them from the water. Possessing a lobster that’s carrying eggs is illegal.
Divers and snorkelers are required to display a “divers-down” flag (red with a white diagonal stripe) while in the water. Diver flags displayed on vessels must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches, and a stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. Dive flags carried on floats must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches.
Make sure you know the waters you’re diving
In Monroe County and Biscayne National Park waters divers are allowed to harvest up to 6 lobsters per person and up to 12 lobsters per person daily in other Florida waters. Night diving for spiny lobsters during the two-day sport season is not allowed in Monroe County, and all harvest of lobsters is prohibited in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park during the two-day season. If you are diving in Monroe County be sure to download the lobster fishing brochure.
Monroe County recently passed new laws concerning diving in nearshore waters. The new law prohibits diving or snorkeling within 300 feet of improved residential or commercial shorelines in unincorporated Monroe from July 24-28 (that includes during mini-season) and then during the first five days of the August 6 regular season, reports the KeyNoter. In its ordinance, the County Commission explains that the law is meant “to abate the destruction of property, deleterious environmental effects and criminal trespass that results from the close proximity of divers to public and private property.”
Lobster harvest is also prohibited at all times in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, the Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary, certain areas in John Pennekamp Park, and no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Sheriffs Office will have officers on the water–know the laws before your trip.