Lobster Mini Season in Florida
Every late July the coastal areas of south Florida are flooded with lobster hunters trying to get their share of this year’s bounty. This time is called Lobster Mini Season. There are two Florida Lobster Seasons, the 2 day mini season and the 8 month regular lobster season. The lobster mini season is always the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July. This year the mini season falls on July 27th and 28th. Make sure to always verify dates and regulations with Florida Fish and Wildlife. It begins at 12:01 am on Wednesday and ends at 12:00 midnight on Thursday. After that, you will have to wait until August 6 for the regular season to open.
Whether you plan to bully net the lobsters form the boat or dive down there and tickle them out, it is important to be extremely safe and remember a few things.
Do I need a recreational license or lobster permit?
Yes, unless you meet the established exemption requirements, you will need to purchase a Recreational Saltwater Fishing License and a $5 Lobster Permit. To purchase a recreational license online, please visit: License.MyFWC.com. You can also get a license by calling 1-888-347-4356, or download the new FWC Licensing Phone App (see NEW FWC Licensing Phone App for details). Licenses can also be purchased at any county a tax collectors’ office or at most marinas, bait and tackle stores, and fishing equipment retailers in Florida. To determine if you meet the established license exemption criteria, please visit MyFWC.com and select “Do I need one?” under Licenses and Permits. If you are exempt from the
recreational fishing license, you are also exempt from the requirement to purchase a lobster permit.
What gear can I use for recreational harvest?
Recreational gear for Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) includes hand-held landing or dip nets, bully-nets that do not exceed 3 feet in diameter, hoop nets that do not exceed 10 feet in diameter, and other devices (grabs) that will not penetrate, puncture or crush the exoskeleton or flesh of the lobster. The use of chemicals or traps to harvest any species of lobster is prohibited. The use of spears and gigs to harvest Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) is also prohibited. Standard equipment for most recreational harvesters includes a tickle stick and a dip net. You may also want to check out the Red Rum Ruler Sleeve Lobster Shirts. Though not a legal gauge, the ruler shirts make for a useful tool when competing with your buddies to see who brought the biggest one to the boat!
Can I harvest at night?
During the two-day sport season, diving for lobster at night (one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise) is prohibited in all state and federal waters off Monroe County. Harvest at night by hoop net or bully net is allowed statewide any time the recreational season is open.
What is the recreational bag limit?
During the two-day sport season, the recreational bag limit is 6 per harvester per day in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park, and 12 per harvester per day in all other areas. During the sport season, there is also an on-shore possession limit of 6 lobster per person on the first day and 12 lobster per person on the second day that applies in Monroe County. Outside of Monroe County there is an on-shore possession limit of 12 lobster per person on the first day and 24 lobster per person on the second day of the sport season. During the regular harvest season beginning on August 6, the recreational daily bag limit is 6 lobster per person in all areas, and there is no on-shore possession limit.
Is a spiny lobster with a 3 inch carapace legal?
No. FWC rules provide that the carapace length must EXCEED 3 inches in length, as measured from the front edge of the carapace (between the rostral horns) to the rear edge of the carapace. Inexpensive lobster measuring devices are very helpful in accurately measuring a lobster and are available from most marinas and tackle stores in south Florida and the Keys. Because lobster harvested while diving must be measured while in the water, FWC rules require every diver to possess a measuring device while diving for lobster.
Do the bag limits and size limits apply to all species of lobster?
No. The bag limits and size limits provided above apply only to the Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus). Other species of lobster (spotted, smooth tail and slipper lobsters) are not specifically regulated which means that you can harvest up to 100 pounds of each species and there is no minimum size limit.
Are there areas that are closed to lobster harvest?
Yes! If you are not a seasoned veteran who knows the area well, make sure you get a map to help you stay out of areas where lobster harvest is not allowed including. Lobster harvest is prohibited in:
- John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is closed to lobster harvest during the sport season. During the regular season, lobster harvest is allowed in the park as long as you are not within any of the “Lobster Exclusion Zones” (marked with orange and white buoys) or on any coral formation within the park. Ask park officials for information if needed.
- Everglades National Park (Florida Bay)
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- Biscayne Bay-Card Sound Lobster Sanctuary
- No-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary which include 18 sanctuary preservation areas, four research only areas, and two ecological reserve areas. While the Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve Areas are not marked, all of the other closed areas are marked with 30” diameter yellow buoys.
- Any artificial habitat.
- During sport season and the beginning of regular season, several local jurisdictions in Monroe County also prohibit diving and snorkeling in manmade canals and within 300 feet of marinas and other improved residential and commercial shorelines. For additional information on the local jurisdictions and closed areas, please visit: MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Monroe County Lobster” or stop by the lobster information booth hosted by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and FWC. The booth is located in Key Largo (between mile marker 105 and 106) and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from July 25 through July 28. Staff from the NOAA-Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and FWC Law Enforcement will be on hand to answer any questions that you may have about lobster season and regulations.
Are there other regulations that I need to know about? Yes!
- The harvest or possession of any egg-bearing female lobster is prohibited, and this regulation applies to all species of lobster in the families Panuliridae (spiny lobsters) andScyllaridae (slipper lobsters).
- The use of artificial habitats of any kind to attract and concentrate lobsters is strictly prohibited. If you see an artificial habitat of any kind, please report the location to the FWC-Division of Law Enforcement and do not harvest any lobster from the structure.Seawalls, bridge piles, navigational markers and other structures constructed under a permit are not included within the definition of an artificial habitat.
- A “divers-down” flag or buoy (red with a white diagonal stripe) is required while swimmers and divers are in the water. For more information on boating safety, please visit MyFWC.com/Boating.
- While Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) cannot be harvested by any gear that will puncture, penetrate or crush the lobster, other species of lobster can be harvested by spear where spearfishing is legal and lobster harvest is allowed.
- Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) must be landed in whole condition.
- Traps of any kind are prohibited for recreational lobster harvest.
- Bag limits are “individual” bag limits that apply to the person actually harvesting the lobster. Bag limits cannot be pooled or shared among harvesters and licensed or exempt persons who may be on-board but are not actively participating in the harvest may not possess a bag limit.