As many of you know for the last two years, I have been catching Florida lobster. Not a ton but a few every trip. We have not attempted to go during mini season as we hate the crowds not have we tried a boat trip catching lobster. All our attempts have been from shore diving. With that said, this year with the water being warmer in the winter than it has been, we are getting more dives. It is time to become a master at catching this alien creatures.
First you should know that regular commercial lobster season runs from August to March here in the Florida Keys. The special two day “mini season” runs the last consecutive Weds & Thurs in July every year. Regular season is Aug 6-Mar 31.
Lobster mating season begins in the spring when the water temperature reaches near 74 degrees. Waters have been this temp through the winter here so not sure how that affects things. Lobsters during this time can be observed walking out of their holes during daylight hours in search of a mate. Male lobsters can often be spotted sparring for the little lady’s affection. Mating season generally ends in August, however, egg-bearing females are common through October and can be found throughout the year.
Male lobsters can be recognized be their proportionately larger legs and carapace. Males tend to move around much more and are easier to catch than females. Females have a proportionately larger tail and extra branching pinchers on the bottom side of the tail or abdomen to hold the eggs once they are fertile.
They hide in and around large sponges, groups of urchins and under ledges of coral heads (don’t forget to turn yourself upside down underwater to look at the underside of ledges). We have found a few nice honey holes, we visit on trips and are practicing getting these creatures out. Waters vary on every dive location. Up in Vero beach, Pepper Park, Sebastian area, they tend to be larger and are harder to catch. The coral nooks and crannies are deeper. Visit deep Six as they have a special tool that was created locally especially built for these deep crevices. In LDBS they are a bit sneakier. Not so out in plain site and you have to trick them out of their holes. I find they like the coral with deep front ledges and also hide in large sponge masses.
Early morning dives and late afternoon dives are the most productive for us. Never really have huge luck in the middle of the day. When you find a honey hole, take the king first. This is generally the big guy in the front protecting the rest. be careful not to touch antennae with net when trying to get them because now he knows you are there and will become wary.
There are numerous ways and techniques to catch the Caribbean and Florida Spiny lobster that I have researched and tried. Before you attempt to catch a Florida lobster, you need to understand their behavior. A Florida lobster typically travels forward by walking very slowly; however, when scared they flex their tail causing a flipper like motion and jet backwards at high speed. The key to catching one is to prey on this natural reaction. I have heard from a local young Vero diver that when you spot one, slow down and stare at it as they are curious and will head out to have a look at what you are. Interesting thought, they do say patience is a virtue so I will be trying this one a bit more.
For the most part I have heard and tried a few ways.
1. Say you have located a lobster under a rock or in a hole. What you want to do is take your tickle stick and slide it behind the lobster. Then you will gently tap the lobster on its tail. The bug will then slowly inch it way forward. If it does not walk forward, you can be a little more aggressive. Or in the case of us over anxious divers, you become a bit crazy with the tickle stick, poking, jamming and using a sweeping motion to try and force it out of the hole. Once it is out of the hole, you should place your net behind it. You then have two options. The best option is simply to try and trap the lobster between the ground and your net. Sometimes this is not possible. This is where preying on the lobsters natural instincts come into play. If you simply tap it on the forehead, it will cause the lobster to quickly shoot back into your net. Sometime this is good and enough said but you need to then quickly swoop the end of the net around so that the lobster is trapped in the net. If you simply let it continue to shot backwards without closing the net, it will continue flipping its way right back out of your net. No matter how hard you try to get the net closed, you will lose some bugs. Or in our experience you have big strong beefy man – hubby – grab him quick and don’t let go until he is in the net.
2. Tapping lobster on it’s head so it shoots into your net. Much harder than it sounds. That tail is super powered and this slippery critters will shoot, hop and jump using tail to get to another hole.
3. Stare him down. I personally have not tried this…YET…but expect to on the next trip out. Sounds simple and if it means I am a more productive bug catcher, I am game.
4. Snatch and grab. I am too chicken S@#$ to try this yet but hubby Rich is quite good at this and has caught many this way. He then quickly gets his measuring tool to make sure it is legal, if so in the bag. If not away he lets it go.
Many of our friends have boats and have old family “secret” spots marked by gps. This cracks me up a bit. If youy are diving on boat, it is best to get their early. Please do not touch an commercial traps. It is illegal and could be hazardous to your health will they pull a gun out to scare you away.
Please be ever so respectful of “limits”. It pisses me off when I hear of the butthead who takes the whole family and is making 2 trips a day out filling a cooler full by the camper during mini season. It certainly does not teach the next generation anything good but also they are the ones who only go a few times a year and ruin it for the rest. FWC has been clamping down on this but during mini season it is out of hand.
I will be modifying this as I improve. Happy hunting.
Remember, you can not take a lobster out of the water or put it into your bag until you have made sure the lobster is of legal size. See my other post about bugs. The carapace has to be at least 3 inches. You have to measure it between eyes(horns and the top nook of it’s head shell. If you do not have a measuring device on you when lobstering, you run the risk of FWC giving you a fine.