MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Florida boaters and divers are taking to the water in big numbers Wednesday and Thursday as Florida’s highly anticipated lobster mini-season gets underway.
The 48-hour mini-season officially got underway at midnight and some of the first divers to hit the water returned early Wednesday morning with their limit of delicious lobster tails.
“We were able to do it in 2 hours, we felt pretty good about ourselves,” said Captain Mike Hutchisson.
With 24 lobsters the Hutchisson family conquered their 20th mini-lobster season with a lot of success.
“This year was a lot more productive than last, I will say that. I think it’s due to a lot less anglers out this year. There wasn’t as many boats as we typically see out there, that could possibly be why we did so well,” said Gred Hutchisson.
Law enforcement officials said a combination of perfect conditions and a slow turn out on opening day can mean a jackpot of lobsters for fisherman if they know where to look.
“The night was a lot better than the day for us,” said fisherman Andres Rodriguez. “We went shallow in the flats and got five or six right off the bat in the first 35 to 45 minutes.”
Jorge Pino from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission described this year’s harvest as a “banner year for lobster.”
That’s great news for divers seeking the delicious crustaceans but before heading to the water, officials want to make sure boaters stay safe.
“We want to send a clear and concise message: safety, safety, safety. If you’re not prepared to go in the water this year, don’t do it,” stated Pino.
Law enforcement officers from various agencies including FWC’s specially trained lobster-sniffing K9, are out in force to make sure no one is breaking any rules.
- The lobster limit is 6 per person per day for Monroe County and Biscayne National Park and 12 per person per day for the rest of Florida.
- Night diving is prohibited in Monroe County (only during the sport season).
- The lobster carapace must be 3″ or larger, measured in the water.
- Possession and use of a measuring device is required at all times.
- Harvest of lobster is prohibited in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park during the sport season and in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, and no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary during both the 2-day sport season and regular season.
Click here for a Guide to Florida’s Lobster Mini-Season.
While there are plenty of rules about lobster hunting, boaters also need to make sure their vessels are in good working order.
“File a float plan, make sure your vessel is in good working order, make sure people know exactly where they are going, make sure you have all the proper safety equipment. And most importantly, if you’re going to be a diver this year, the Coast Guard really wants to stress this, dive with a buddy. If you’re not an experienced diver or skin diver don’t do this at night,” said Joe Abeyta of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Law enforcement officials are also be cracking down on those who are boating while intoxicated.
The special two-day spiny lobster sport season began at midnight, July 25 and lasts for just 48 hours, ending at 12:00 midnight Thursday. It’s followed by the regular 8-month lobster season which is always Aug. 6 through March 31.
The special two-day sport season occurs on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July each year to let recreational harvesters collect spiny lobsters before commercial lobster traps are placed in the water on Aug 1.
And if you need more information, just click here for the FWC website for additional rules, regulations and important information about lobster mini-season.