Lobster mini-season, commonly referred to as sport season, is one of the busiest times on the ocean in the Florida Keys, as thousands of visitors and residents hit the waters for the thrill of catching the delectable Florida spiny lobster.
“Keep this a low-impact lobster season by observing basic reef etiquette: Never stand or rest on corals, avoid contact with the reef, and don’t touch or take marine life aside from your lobster catch,” Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent said. “To do this, use proper weights to maintain buoyancy, keep your equipment secure and maintain a comfortable distance from the reef … Help keep the Keys in good shape with basic reef etiquette.”
People should start by learning lobster regulations for the Florida Keys, sanctuary and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) representatives said. As opposed to other areas of the state, a person is only entitled to six lobsters a day off Monroe County.
The FWC did pass a rule last month that entitles divers to one extra lobster a day if they spear and kill 10 or more lionfish per day. The new rule will add another challenge for law enforcement officers, but “it is for a good cause,” said FWC office Bobby Dube, the spokesman for the FWC in the Keys.
“If we can rid the Keys of lionfish, that is a good thing,” Dube said. “The FWC is trying to think outside of the box. We’ll see how it plays out.”
Divers must hold a valid Florida saltwater fishing license and lobster permit to harvest lobster. All female lobsters bearing eggs, which are usually bright orange and carried on the underside of their carapace, must be released regardless of size.
Do not harvest lobster without first using a lobster gauge to confirm its carapace is greater than 3 inches long. Divers should check their vessel’s safety gear and familiarize themselves with the local waters where they plan to boat, FWC and sanctuary officials said.
Diving at night for lobsters during mini-season is prohibited. Divers should service dive gear, practice their dive skills, plan their dives and follow good reef etiquette: Absolutely no touching or bumping coral.
The FWC and sanctuary have set up two lobster information booths. One will be at the entrance to the Keys off U.S. Highway 1 at mile marker 106. The booth will be staffed form 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday through Tuesday. The other will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday at Bahia Honda State Park.
BY TIMOTHY O’HARA Citizen Staff " target="_blank">