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Get ready, get set, the two-day Florida frenzy that is lobster mini season is about to begin on Wednesday, July 24th running through Thursday, July 25th, 2019. This short sportsman season allows the opportunity for recreational participants to harvest their fair share of spiny lobsters before commercial traps are out for the eight-month regular season starting August 6th.
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. Florida Wildlife Commission and Coast Guard crews will be on the water in full force 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.
If you plan to get in on the action, you need to understand and comply with the lobster limits as they are strictly enforced. Per person, per day your bag limit will be six lobsters in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park. For the rest of Florida, your lobster bag limit will be 12 lobsters per person, per day. Remember, limits are only for properly licensed individuals meaning you can’t harvest any if you don’t have a license. Make sure you are a legitimate lobsterer and get your spiny lobster license here. When it comes to measuring these tasty crustaceans 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. If you think you have a short, double check it and let it go. The lobster's carapace must be greater than three inches and all recreationally harvested lobster must remain in whole condition while at sea. Their tails can only be separated on land. When the tail is separated from the body, the length must be greater than 5 and a half inches.
Not only is mini season a recreational lobster fisherman’s first opportunity to bag a spiny lobster, but it also marks the end of the reproductive season for the spiny lobster. Many of these crustaceans are still carrying eggs, and in the Florida Keys most lobsters with eggs are on the Atlantic side of the Keys near the reef. Legal-sized lobsters have about 300,000 eggs, and handling these lobsters can cause them to lose their eggs or their legs. Before catching a spiny lobster, take a moment to determine if it's too small or if it has eggs. It's important to remember that the harvest or possession of eggbearing spiny lobster is prohibited.
There will be countless amounts of divers in the water during this two-day event and the FWC would like to remind us to take care of not only ourselves, but the environment. “Spiny lobster season is an exciting time of year to be on the water,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Chairman Robert Spottswood. “But it’s also a time to remember safety on the water and to remember the importance of taking care around Florida’s coral reefs.” While you are out having fun in the water and diving for those bugs, try to be as "coral-conscious" as possible. Our reefs have been stressed in recent years due to new coral disease and warmer than average waters. To protect our coral reefs, avoid touching the coral while lobstering and remember to enjoy the reef's natural beauty. The FWC just launched the Florida Coral Crew initiative to engage sportsmen and women in the effort to combat Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. Before you go out looking for lobster, you can sign up to join the crew online or if you're in the Keys, talk to FWC staff that will be stationed at Bass Pro Shops - Worldwide Sportsman on Islamorada and at Divers Direct Key Largo.
Have fun during this year's mini season and stay safe out there - we hope you limit out both days!
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