Guide to Lobstering in Florida | Online Florida Lobstering Handbook
If interested in lobstering in Florida, the regular Florida lobster season extends from August 6th to March 31st – the best time to hit the waters on the hunt for the delicious spiny little creatures.
While there are other parts of the country where you can go lobstering, I will be discussing lobstering in the South Florida area, being that it’s closest to where we are, and lobsters are in abundance down here.
So if you’re up North, or out West, and considering a vacation spot where you can enjoy some diving or marine activities, strongly consider coming down here for some crustacean hunting fun! Otherwise, you can use some of the tips below for similar results in your local area!
About Our Friendly South Florida Lobster – The Florida Spiny Lobster
The main difference between the Florida Spiny Lobster and the American or Main Lobster are the front claws.
American / Main lobsters have large front claws. Florida Spiny Lobsters do not. Clawed lobsters are known as cold water lobsters, while Florida lobsters are known as warm water lobsters.
Florida lobsters are caught for their tail meat, while Maine lobster is known for its claw and tail meat.
Young larvae and juvenile Florida lobsters stay in shallow waters to hide from predators. One of their most common predators is the Lionfish, a foreign, invasive species which was unnaturally introduced to the Atlantic Ocean, most likely from aquarium owners dumping them in the sea. A Lionfish can consume 20 baby lobsters in just 30 minutes. As Florida lobsters grow, their predators grow along with them, to eels and sharks.
In the fall and winter, as waters cool, Florida Lobsters go to deeper waters. As the shallow waters warm in summer months, Lobsters return to more shallow areas. Florida lobsters are said to be descendants of the Caribbean lobster, due to large water circulation patterns and weather patterns transporting the lobster larvae long distances. When considering dates and times for lobstering in Florida, you should take all of this into consideration.
Spiny lobsters generally eat at night. They eat smaller crustaceans, mollusks, chiton and bivalves. They take on the color of their food, either red or green, depending on the color of the algae that covers their prey.
Where to Find Florida Lobster
When lobstering in Florida, look no further than the Florida Keys.
The best lobster spots are located on the Gulf (Bay) side of the Middle Keys just north of Marathon, south of Long Key and the 7 Mile Bridge. This is due to the abundant natural Lobster Habitat found in the area including:
- Duck Key
- Long Key
- Conch Key
- Lower Matecumbe Key
The rocks surrounding the bridges of Duck Key are an especially popular spot for catching lobster. There may be 10 other groups there, but there will be more than enough lobster to go around.
A great tip according to FloridaLobstering.com is to find a rocky bottom in 5 – 15 feet water, and troll around with two ski ropes pulling two guys behind the boat. If someone finds a lobster, drop off the rope, and have the boat circle back. Then mark the spot with the GPS and come back at a later time, or go right ahead and go for the catch.
Lobsters like to hide under rocks and coral, and you can often spot their antennas sticking out. Even if you don’t see the antennas, and it looks like a particularly nice hiding spot (you just get that gut feeling), go a bit lower and investigate, you may just find a little hidden lobster lair.
And if you find a great spot, that is not yet known by others… keep it to yourself and return year after year!
How to Catch Caribbean and Florida Spiny Lobster
Essential gear for lobstering in Florida:
- Tickle sticks
- Lobster nets or snares
- Measuring gauge
- Lobster gloves – especially important because of lobster’s spiny shells
- Lobster bags – make sure you keep them contained once you catch ’em!
- Diving hookah, scuba gear (or big lung capacity!)
- Underwater fishing lights – for lobstering at night
First and foremost, it’s important to know how Spiny Lobsters behave and move = Florida Spiny Lobsters will move forward very slowly and cautiously. However, if frightened they will use their tail to shoot backward very rapidly.
If hunting with a net, you will want to take advantage of this natural reaction.
When hunting with a net, use a “tickle stick” to gently tap the lobster on the tail. This will cause it to walk forward. If not, you can be a bit more aggressive and use a sweeping motion to try and force it out of it’s hole.
Once out of the hole, the best option is to try and trap the lobster between the net and the ground, starting with the net behind the lobster in case he jets backward. If not possible, place the net behind the lobster, and simply tap it on it’s forehead. This will freak him out, and cause him to shoot backward right into your net. Then QUICKLY swoop the end of the net around the lobster to trap it.
Another option is to catch the lobster with a snare, a much quicker and more direct method (Hookah Dive South Florida – Lobster):
Rules For Catching Lobsters in Florida – Size, Limit & More
Now that you are a certified, diving lobster hunter, you can’t just go in and snatch up as many lobsters as you’d like… there are limits to this thing.
1) A lobster must have a carapice (it’s “torso” or body if you will) of at least 3 inches. This means it would be at least 2 or 3 years old, and have lived long enough to have reproduced at least one season. You must place the measuring gauge starting at it’s head, between the eyes, and making sure the end of its carapice is longer than the 3 inch marker.
The lobster must be measured in the water, if harvested while hookah diving or diving in general.
2) You can only catch 6 lobster a day. Six (6) per recreational harvester per day
3) Egg-bearing (bearing) female lobsters must be left alone. Eggs are an orange, yellow, brown, or red mass found covering the underside of the lobster’s tail
4) Recreational harvesters are required to possess a valid Florida Saltwater Fishing License with a current spiny lobster permit.
For more information on the Florida rules and regulations for lobstering, see here…
Lobstering in Florida and Diving Hookahs – a Perfect Match
One suggestion to help with this is to consider getting a diving hookah. With diving hookahs, as opposed to traditional scuba gear, you:
- Don’t have to wear bulky, heavy gear – can move more freely
- Don’t need to lug around tanks of compressed air
- Don’t need to bring in tanks for refills (which can take a day or more during lobster season)
- The little gas motor on a Brownie’s diving hookah will run for most the day on about a gallon of gas.
As to lobstering in Florida with a diving hookah, see the feedback from several members of the popular boating forum, The Hull Truth, especially about their preference for Brownies:
“I went the SCUBA route in 74. About 4 years ago I got a Brownie 280. For lobstering and shallow reefs you can’t beat it. No tanks to trip over, running back for fills, a gallon of gas will keep up to 3 people under longer than most want to be.”
-Monstro (SW Florida, 670 posts)
“You are more than welcome to try the airline, but Brownie’s are the industry innovator, and the one I’d be willing to bet my life on (that is what you are doing)…and don’t get me started on Joe Sink personally. Who want’s to buy boating life support from a guy named “Sink” anyways? Brownie’s has been making these compressors since 1969. Airline…2000, maybe.
I’ve used them a whole lot, and wish I had one down in the Keys with me now…they are awesome for the Florida reefs. You can get lobster all day long on 15′ reef and 1 tank of gas.”
-flyau98 (Plantation, FL, 3,054 posts)
“I love my brownie third lung. Awesome in the keys. 30 is as deep as I ever want to go… In my opinion that is the only way to hunt.”
-Bugbuster (“Struggleville”, 7,517 posts)
“…you’re right it is the only way to hunt, whether its lobsters or shooting fish.”
-SailfishChaserFL (Florida, 107 posts)
“I have been diving worldwide for 44 years. The last two years I have been using a Brownies Third Lung here in the TCI. I love it. Most of the good stuff is shallower than 40 ft. I have three 60 ft. hose/regulators, so I can dive with a couple guests and keep an eye on them. The Brownies uses a little Robin engine, and it will run about 4 hours on a half gallon of gasoline.
-Gringo (Turks and Caicos Island, 7,539 posts)
Not only are the diving hookahs great for recreational diving and lobstering, but can be used for general shallow water work on your boat, such as cleaning props and installing zincs.
Hookah Diving Training, Certification and Tips
With the purchase of each Hookah from Brownie’s, you are allowed access to an online training and certification course, free of charge. You can find more info on the online training / certification, here.
Some things you can do to get comfortable with the Brownie’s Diving Hookah is use it in a pool, especially if you are going to have your kids use it.
Go over with your friends & family what should be done if the compressor DOES quit: hold the breath you have, and let it out slowly as you surface. Just like with most things diving related, panic is the biggest enemy.
Be patient getting into and out of the water or you’ll spend a lot of time getting things straightened out before you can dive.
Where to Buy Hookah Diving Systems?
If interested in purchasing a Hookah Diving System to help with your lobstering efforts, we carry the entire Brownie’s Third Lung line for sale here: Brownie’s Hookah Diving Systems For Sale
Two of the most popular models are the F285BE Economy Floating Hookah and the VS265XE Variable Speed Electric Hookah Diving System, you can learn more about them here: Best Electric Hookah Dive System: Brownie’s F285BE & VS265XE
Should you have any questions on diving hookahs, lobstering in Florida or anything else boating, we’re here!
Have a good one!!
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