Sanctuary Friends of the Florida Keys
Each year during the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July thousands of recreational anglers converge on the Florida Keys for Florida’s famous spiny lobster sport season. More than 50,000 anglers have been documented on the water during this two-day "mini" season, and the density of boats along local coral patch reefs can be 900x higher than during the remainder of the regular season (1). Unfortunately, diving and boating accidents are common and deaths are not unheard of during this time. The impact to the lobster population can also great. Managers estimate the two-day sport season is responsible for 20-25% of the total annual recreational fishing effort and 80-90% of the legal size lobsters can be removed from reefs during this time (1,2)
Spiny Lobster Sport Season Regulations
- Bag Limit: 6 per person per day for Monroe County and Biscayne National Park, and 12 per person per day for the rest of Florid
- Size Limit: Carapace 3 inches or larger, measured in the water. Possession and use of a measuring device is required at all time
- Possession Limit on the Water: Equal to the daily bag limit
- Possession Limit off the Water: Equal to the daily bag limit on the first day, and double the daily bag limit on the second day. Possession limits are enforced on and off the water.
*Harvest of spiny lobster is prohibited in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park during the sport season. Harvest is also prohibited during both the 2-day sport season and regular season in Biscayne National Park’s Lobster Sanctuary, Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, and no take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Night diving is prohibite in Monroe County during the sport season.For more information on spiny lobster sport and regular season regulations click here.
To legally harvest spiny lobster, a spiny lobster permit must be purchased in addition to a valid Florida saltwater fishing license (even if you are fishing from shore and have a free shoreline lincese, a spiny lobster permit is required). Click here for more information on fishing licenses.
Useful Tools for Spiny Lobster Sport Season
- Dive Flag - All divers in Florida waters must display a dive flag and stay within 100 feet of it.
- Short-Handled Lobster Net and Tail Snare - Nets are used on sand flats while snares are best for reefs.
- Tickle Stick - A thin fiberglass rod about 24 inches long used to coax lobsters out of holes without harming the reef.
- Gloves - Used to get a firm grip on a lobster. Always handle a lobster by its carapace as they can sacrifice an antennae to escape being caught
- Mesh Game Bag - To hold your catch. Look for models with a convenient way to attach to your weight belt or gear, and a locking enclosure.
- Lobster Gauge - Every diver must carry a lobster gauge and must measure the lobster under water before it's placed in the game bag.
According to the FWC, "the carapace is measured beginning at the forward edge between the rostral horns, excluding any soft tissue, and proceeding along the middle to the rear edge of the carapace."
(1) Eggleston, D.B, E.G. Johnson, G.T. Kellison, and D.A. Nadeau. 2003. Intense removal and non-saturating functional responses by recreational divers on spiny lobster Panulirus argus. Mar Ecol Prog Ser. 257: 197-207.
(2) Sharp, W.C., R.D. Bertelsen, and V.R. Leeworthy. 2005. Long-term trends in the recreational lobster fishery of Florida, United States: Landings, effort and implications for management. New Zeal J Mar Freshwat Res. 39: 733-747.