MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s time to start melting some butter and prep your lobster bib.  It’s nearly time for Florida’s annual lobster mini-season which means your office may be a bit short of staff for the next couple of days.

At the stroke of midnight on Wednesday, July 24th, thousands of South Florida divers will hit the water for Florida’s annual two day lobster mini-season.

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Law enforcement is expecting large crowds of lobster lovers to hit the water.  But before they do, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants to remind them to play it safe.

Law enforcement officers from various agencies including FWC lobster-sniffing K9, will be out in force to make sure no one is breaking any rules.

Whether they’re taken from above or below the water there are a few rules to remember:

  • 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.
  • They can possess no more than the daily bag limit of lobsters when they are on the water. When they are off the water, they can 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 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.
  • Lobster harvest is also prohibited at all times in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Also, the harvest of egg-bearing females is prohibited. Spiny lobster must remain in whole condition until it is brought to shore. Harvesters cannot use any device that might puncture, penetrate or crush the shell of the lobster.

Night diving for spiny lobsters during the two-day sport season is not allowed in Monroe County.

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Anyone planning to head out and bag a few must have a recreational saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit unless they are exempt from recreational license requirements.

While diving, divers may encounter nonnative, invasive lionfish. FWC encourages people to remove lionfish to limit negative impacts to native fish and wildlife. There is no bag limit for the nonnative, invasive lionfish.

Boaters are urged to file a float plan, make sure their vessel is in good working order and have all the proper safety equipment.  All divers should use the buddy system.

Law enforcement officials will also be cracking down on those who are boating while intoxicated.

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.

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And if you need more information, just click here for the FWC website for additional rules, regulations and important information about lobster mini-season.