Every year, on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission gives lobster lovers 48 hours of hectic marine bliss. It’s called mini lobster season, and for two precious days anyone lucky enough to to con their boss into letting them off work can head out into the blue-green waters of Biscayne Bay and dive for their catch limit of spiny lobster. (Don’t worry if you can’t take the days off though, regular lobster season runs August 6 through March 31st.)
Want to participate in this state sanctioned crustacean carnage? We got you covered. Here’s what you need, and what you need to know.
What you need:
- A saltwater fishing license from Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. You can get their “lobster combo” for $27.
- A tickle stick – yes, that’s really what they’re called – to scare the delicious critters out of their underwater holes.
- A net on a pole or some quick hands and some gloves. Rock lobsters can propel themselves backwards through the water at eye-popping speeds, so be prepared to scramble.
- A ruler or measuring device to make sure the lobster you’ve caught is the correct size. The lobster carapace – the part of the shell that isn’t the tail – cannot be under 3 inches, and state regulations ensure that you have to measure them *in* the water.
- A snorkel, mask, and fins, or scuba gear if you are certified.
- A boat, or a friend with a boat, or a maybe even just kayak.
What you need to know:
- Spiny lobsters are only distant relatives of real lobsters. They don’t have any claws, and they like to hang out in small groups under rocks and coral.
- If the lobster has eggs, you have to throw it back.
- Scientists have found spiny lobster fossils that are 110 million years old. (OK, you didn’t need to know that, but it’s pretty cool.)
- Spiny lobsters are found in tropical waters all over the world, but in Florida it is illegal to puncture or pierce the lobsters in any way while you’re harvesting them.
- Don’t try to exceed the bag limit. You can take six lobsters per person per day in the Keys and Biscayne Bay, and 12 per person for day anywhere else in Florida. The fuzz are out in force and they have lobster-sniffing dogs to catch lawbreakers.
- Be careful when sticking your hand into a lobster hole. There might be a nurse shark in there who has already eaten the lobster! Last year, former NFL star Warren Sapp lost a little chunk of his arm while lobster diving.
- Make sure you’re not in a lobster-safe zone, like John Pennekamp State Park, while you’re harvesting. If you are in the keys and have any doubts, call the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary at (305) 743-2437 or visit floridakeys.noaa.gov/ for information, and make sure you’re more than 300 feet from the shoreline. If you’re in Biscayne Bay, make sure you’re not in the lobster sanctuary.
Finally, make sure to stock up on butter!