Recreational and commercial harvest seasons for spiny lobster in Florida are set to reopen soon. The special two-day spiny lobster sport season comes first, July 29 and 30 this year, followed by the regular lobster season Aug. 6 – March 31.
The special two-day sport season occurs on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July each year to let recreational fishermen collect spiny lobsters before commercial lobster traps are placed in the water. Commercial fishermen may begin putting their traps in the water Aug. 1, and recreational and commercial fishermen may harvest spiny lobsters starting Aug. 6.
Spiny lobsters must have a carapace length greater than 3 inches to be taken during the open seasons, and divers must possess a measuring device and measure all lobsters in the water.
During the two-day spiny lobster sport season, divers and snorkelers are allowed to take up to 6 lobsters per person daily in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park waters and 12 lobsters per person daily in other Florida waters. Lobster fishermen may possess no more than the daily bag limit of lobsters when on the water.
When lobster fishermen are off the water, they may possess 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 during the two-day sport season.
Night diving for spiny lobsters during the two-day sport season is not allowed in Monroe County, and all harvest of lobsters is prohibited in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park during the two-day season.
Lobster harvest is also prohibited at all times in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary, certain areas in Pennekamp Park, and the no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
During the Aug. 6 – March 31 regular season, the daily recreational bag and on-the-water possession limit is six spiny lobsters per person. Recreational harvesters must have a saltwater fishing license or – beginning Aug. 1 – a resident shoreline fishing license if they are wading from shore, and a spiny lobster permit to harvest spiny lobsters unless they are exempt from the recreational license requirements.
Divers and snorkelers are required to display a “divers-down” flag (red with a white diagonal stripe) while in the water. Divers-down flags displayed on vessels must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches, and a stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. Dive flags carried on floats must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches.
The FWC’s Web site has more information as follows:
Dive flag requirements – www.MyFWC.com/Boating
Licenses and permit requirements – www.MyFWC.com/License
Rules and regulations – www.MyFWC.com/RulesAndRegs/Saltwater_Regulations_lobster.htm
Commercial lobster fishing – www.MyFWC.com/RulesAndRegs/SaltwaterRules_CommercialRegs.htm.