Adult spiny lobsters make their homes in the protected crevices and caverns of coral reefs, sponge flats, and other hard-bottomed areas. The lobsters spawn from March through August and female lobsters carry the bright orange eggs on their undersides until they turn brown and hatch. Larvae can be carried for thousands of miles by currents until they settle in shallow nearshore areas among seagrass and algae beds. They feed on small snails and crabs. The lobsters are solitary until they reach the juvenile stage, when they begin to congregate around protective habitat in nearshore areas. As they begin to mature, spiny lobsters migrate from the nursery areas to offshore reefs.
Lobsters stay in their dens during daylight hours to avoid predators, emerging a couple of hours after dark to forage for food. While lobsters will eat almost anything, their favorite diet consists mostly of snails, clams, crabs, and urchins. The lobsters return to the safety of their dens several hours before sunrise.
The recreational fishery for the spiny lobster begins in July with a two-day sport season. This season is the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July each year. Regular spiny lobster season is August 6 through March 31. For information on spiny lobster regulations during the sport season and the regular season, visit the FWC's Division of Marine Fisheries Management Lobster page.
It takes a spiny lobster about two years to grow to the three-inch carapace legal-harvesting size and they can grow as large as 15 pounds. The typical recreational harvest is 1.5 to 2 million pounds between the start of the two-day sport season and Labor Day. The commercial harvest averages 6 million pounds per season, with an average annual value of $20 million. Measured in dollars, the spiny lobster fishery is the largest commercial fishery in Florida.