The 2014 spiny lobster season opened this week with the two-day recreational sport season (July 30-31), which will be followed by the regular commercial and recreational lobster season Aug. 6 to March 31.
Planning on catching some of these tasty crustaceans? Here is what the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recommends.
No one wants a small lobster for dinner. Make sure you check the size. Measuring devices are required, and lobsters must be measured while they are in the water. If the carapace (main body) length is not larger than 3 inches, it must be left in the water.
To protect the next generation and your future chances to have lobster for dinner, harvest of egg-bearing females is prohibited. Lobsters have hundreds of thousands of eggs that are easily visible and attached under the tail. While most lobsters have completed reproduction by the start of the fishing season, finding lobsters with eggs is common in July and August.
Bring a cooler big enough to hold the entire lobster. Spiny lobsters must remain in whole condition until they are brought to shore. Also, do not take spiny lobster with any device that might puncture, penetrate or crush its shell.
Stick to the bag and possession limits so there will be enough lobsters for all your friends and family. During the two-day spiny lobster sport season, recreational divers and snorkelers can take up to six lobsters per person daily in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park waters and 12 lobsters per person daily in other Florida waters.
During the Aug. 6-to-March 31 regular season, the daily recreational bag and on-the-water possession limit is six spiny lobsters per person.
Lobster harvest is always prohibited in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary, certain areas of John Pennekamp State Park, and no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Have the proper paperwork. A recreational saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit are required to recreationally harvest spiny lobsters unless you are exempt from recreational license requirements. Information about these licenses and permits is available online at MyFWC.com/License.
Do double-duty while you are in the water and remove invasive lionfish. These nonnative species are often found in the same areas as spiny lobster, and they negatively impact Florida’s native wildlife and habitat. Help keep the lionfish population under control by removing them from Florida waters. If you plan to take lionfish with a spear, be aware of no-spearing zones and always check with your local law enforcement agency before planning your spearfishing trips.
Safety first. Divers, even those who wade in, should stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down symbol (red with a white diagonal stripe) on a flag or buoy when in open water and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or buoy if on a river, inlet or navigation channel.
Boat operators must slow to idle speed if they need to travel within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or buoy in open water or 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel.
Divers-down flags displayed on vessels must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches, and a stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. The flag must be displayed from the highest point of the vessel, must be visible from all directions and must be displayed only when divers are in the water.
Divers-down symbols towed by divers must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches. More information on divers-down flag requirements is available online at MyFWC.com/Boating by clicking on “Boating Regulations.”