Florida keys

Lobstering in the Florida Keys

Lobstering is one of the many popular water activities in Key West. How many places are there where you can jump in shallow, warm and clear water and swim around and catch lobster for dinner? Not very many in the United States.

What are the Regulations?

Lobstering in Key West is seasonal. There is a open season on lobsters and it runs from Aug. 6 – March 31st every year. In this time period you can take 6 lobsters a day per licensed person. You have to have a fishing license with a lobster stamp in order to take lobsters. The fines are pretty high so make sure you know all the rules.

What is Lobster Mini Season?

Before regular season starts there is a mini sport season. This is two days where only recreational divers can catch lobsters. It’s before the lobster traps go into the water so the lobsters have had all the closed season to stack up. This is when lobstering is easiest and everyone can catch lobsters.

This is also when some people go overboard and don’t follow the rules and take more lobster then they are supposed to. The marine patrol knows this and they are out in force on those two days checking people’s licenses and to see if they have too many lobsters.

You also must keep your lobster whole until you get to the shore. Taking the tail off a lobster is a big fine as well. You will also have to look out for egg bearing females. These need to be released immediately.

How About Chartering a Boat for Lobster Mini Season?

Many people bring their own boats down for the two days, but there are also many lobster charters available by local captains. The advantage in this, is that these guys live here and will often know right where to go to the get lobsters and no wandering around.

Pretty much all the dive boats and many of the fishing boats will do lobster charters that time of year. But keep in mind there is a huge influx of visitors trying to get lobsters on sport season so it still might be hard to find a boat.

What’s the Right Gear for Lobstering?

Most of these boats will have nets and tickle sticks for you to use. If you are bringing your own boat you will need to purchase this stuff on your own. Even if you go on a charter I recommend you buy your own mask and fins. Getting a mask that fits right will make or break your day. Getting comfortable fins is like getting comfortable shoes. Sure you can wear uncomfortable shoes but you are not going to want to walk far in them. Same holds true in swimming and fins.

Lobsters have to be 3 inches long on the back of their shell. There will be many lobsters out there that will be a quarter inch too short. You MUST have a lobster gauge and measure your lobsters in the water when you catch them. These gauges will be sold to you along with your net and tickle stick. Make sure you have the gauge with you. Like I said earlier marine patrol is out in force when the lobster diving is hot.

Ben Shep