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If you consider yourself to be a saltwater sportsman like we do here at HMY Yacht Sales, chances are you too are excitedly counting down the days until the start of the 2018 Florida spiny lobster mini season. In just a few days, divers and boats will be out in droves hunting coastal waters for their limit of Florida spiny lobster. Every July, the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of the month are dubbed Florida's lobster "mini season" and this year, the two-day event, also known as "sport season", takes place on Wednesday, July 25 and Thursday, July 26. This mini run precedes the regular spiny lobster season which is an 8 month period of time extending from August 6 to March 31, annually. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the typical recreational harvest is 1.5 to 2 million pounds between the start of the two-day sport season and Labor Day.
Before you get your tickle sticks and dive gear ready, now is the perfect time to brush up on the rules and regulations that go along with Florida's spiny lobster mini season. FWC and Coast Gaurd crews will be on the water ensuring vessels are in compliance. As always, any vessel participating in mini season must remember to properly display their divers down flag. As a reminder: divers/snorkelers must stay within 300 feet of a divers-down device in open waters such as bays, oceans and gulf. Stay within 100 feet of a divers-down device in narrow waterways such as rivers or canals. Only display divers-down devices while divers/snorkelers are in the water.
Per person, per day your bag limit will be six lobsters in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park. Your lobster bag limit will be 12 per person, per day for the rest of Florida. Remember, limits are only for properly licensed individuals so make sure you are a legitimate lobsterer and get your lobster license here. When it comes to measuring a Florida spiny lobster there are several elements to keep in mind. Each lobster harvester must have a gauge made for measuring lobster while harvesting in the water. All lobster must be measured in the water and released unharmed if undersized. The lobster carapace must be greater than three inches and all recreationally harvested lobster must remain in whole condition while at sea. Their tales can only be separated on land. When the tail is separated from the body, it must be greater than 5 and a half inches.
Whether you're a lobstering aficionado or a first-timer, it's always wise to review your plan of attack before you dive in. Understanding the crustacean's behavior will help you determine how to catch one. A Florida spiny lobster typically travels forward and walks very slowly. However, when frightened, they flex their tail causing a flipper-like motion and then quickly propel backwards. The best way to catch one is to utilize their natural reaction in your favor. More often than not, you'll locate a lobster under a rock or in a hole. When you do, bring your tickle stick around to its back and gently tap on its tail. This should cause the lobster to slowly walk forward. If it doesn't walk forward, try again a little more aggressively. It may be best to use the tickle stick in a sweeping motion to try and force it out of the hole.
Once you've gotten the bug out of the hole, place your net behind it. When you get to this point, you have two options. The first and best option to try and trap the lobster between the ground and your net. However, sometimes this isn't possible. This is where preying on the lobsters natural instincts come into the picture. If you simply tap it on the forehead, it will cause the lobster to shoot back into your net. The trick is, you need to then quickly swoop the end of the net around so that the lobster is trapped in the net. Allowing it to continue to shoot backwards without closing the net, will usually result in it flipping right back out of your net. No matter how hard you try to get the net closed, you will likely lose a few lobsters here and there so don't get discouraged. Have fun this year and stay safe out there - we hope you limit out both days!
To better prepare for the 2018 mini season, watch the video below for additional tips. Courtesy of the Miami Herald.
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