Wildlife
9:50 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Lobster Mini-Season Comes With Restrictions In The Keys

The two-day recreational mini-season for spiny lobster is hugely popular in the Keys, despite special restrictions along the island chain.
The two-day recreational mini-season for spiny lobster is hugely popular in the Keys, despite special restrictions along the island chain.
Credit Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

The two-day spiny lobster sport season -- known as the mini-season -- is intended to give recreational lobster hunters a chance to  get their hands on the tasty crustaceans before commercial traps go in the water.

In practice it's become a hugely popular opening rush in the Florida Keys, where lobsters are usually plentiful.

This despite the fact that the Keys carry special restrictions during mini-season.

Even though the season technically opened at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, there's no night diving in the Keys. The bag limit in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park is six per person per day, half the limit in other areas. And local ordinances ban diving for lobster during mini-season in man-made waterways, i.e. residential canals.

There's also no lobster fishing during mini-season in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park off Key Largo, and no fishing of any kind, any time, in the protected areas of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Despite all that, boat traffic has been heavy heading south on the Overseas Highway since the weekend and marine law enforcement is preparing for another busy year.

Officer Bobby Dube of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission  says law enforcement is prepared for another busy year, with good weather predicted.

"Bring your patience and use common sense. A lobster is not worth your life," he said. He reminded all divers and snorkelers to use a dive flag and have a lookout on top of the water, on board the boat.

"We have a lot of novices -- first timers that come form all over the country to try to experience lobster mini dive days," Dube says. "Sometimes they don’t know all the laws and regulations, or what a dive flag even looks like."

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office will also have officers on the water and at boat ramps -- and reminds visitors and Keys residents not to leave gear unattended in yards or on boats.

And for those who aren't up for venturing onto the water, lobster should be available at your local fish house and restaurant as soon as the commercial season opens Aug. 6. Key West holds its annual Lobsterfest Aug. 7 through 10.