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Florida Mini Lobster Season: The Ultimate Guide (2023)

mini lobster season

Mini lobster season is an exciting time for recreational lobster hunters in Florida, offering a chance to get a head start on the action before the commercial season kicks in. Typically occurring on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July, the mini-season is a highly anticipated event for both locals and visitors who want to experience the thrill of catching these delicious sea creatures.

Are you planning your trip to the Florida Keys last minute?

If you are booking your trip to the Florida Keys last minute, we have you covered. Below are some of the top tours, hotels, and more!

⭐Top Experiences and Tours in the Florida Keys:

  1. Snorkel Adventure and Sandbar (the top seller!)
  2. 1.5 Hour Waverunner Tour (Highly rated!)
  3. Sunset Cruise from Cheeca Resort (Gorgeous Photos!)
  4. Glassbottom Boat Tour (So popular!)
  5. Key West Sunset Sail & Full Bar (Live music too!)
  6. Key West Shark Adventure (For adrenaline junkies)

🛌  Top Hotels in the Florida Keys:

  1. The Capitana Key West (Key West)
  2. Tranquility Bay (Middle Keys)
  3. Bakers Cay Resort (Upper Keys)

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During the mini-season, Florida Fish and Wildlife sets specific dates and regulations to ensure a sustainable and enjoyable experience for everyone. It’s essential for participants to verify the exact dates and local rules before heading out in search of lobsters. While mini lobster season is a short, two-day event, it’s followed by the regular lobster season, which begins in early August and runs through the end of March, providing ample opportunity for lobster enthusiasts to get their fill.

As someone who has traveled to the Florida Keys for over 20 years, I can attest to the excitement and sense of camaraderie that builds around the mini lobster season. It has become a cherished family tradition for us, with each year bringing new memories and stories to share. The thrill of the hunt, combined with the spectacular beauty of the Keys, makes for an unforgettable experience that draws us back annually.

Overview of Mini Lobster Season

Florida’s mini-lobster season is an eagerly anticipated event for recreational lobster hunters. Taking place at the end of July, this two-day event is an opportunity for you to catch lobsters in Florida before the regular commercial season starts in August. The mini lobster season was created to reduce conflicts between recreational and commercial harvesters and to compensate the recreational fishery for allowing commercial harvesters to place baited traps in the water five days before the season opens.

Typically, mini lobster season occurs during the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July, and it applies both in the Florida Keys and Miami-Dade. This annual event attracts many people who love the thrill of catching spiny lobsters, and whether you’re a seasoned hunter or new to the sport, it provides a great opportunity to get out on the water and enjoy some lobster-catching action.

During mini lobster season, participants must adhere to certain rules and regulations, such as obtaining a license, minimum size requirements, and bag limits. Keeping these in mind while participating in the event will ensure that everyone has an enjoyable and responsible experience.

Remember, the mini lobster season boundaries are essential both geographically and time-wise. Understanding the specific dates and areas, like the distinction between lobster hunting in Layton and Key Colony Beach, will help you fully experience the event without any issues.

Dates and Duration

mini lobster season calendar

Lobster season in Florida has two main periods: the mini season and the regular season. The mini season, also known as the sport season, typically lasts for two days and falls on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July. In 2023, the mini season will take place on July 26th and 27th. This short timeframe allows for recreational lobster hunting before the official opening of the regular season.

The regular lobster season, on the other hand, spans from August 6th to March 31st. During this time, both commercial and recreational lobster harvesting is permitted. It’s important to always verify dates and regulations with the Florida Fish and Wildlife department when planning your lobstering activities.

Both the mini season and regular season have specific start and end times. The mini season begins at 12:01 a.m. on the last Wednesday of July and ends at midnight on the following Thursday. The regular season starts at 12:01 a.m. on August 6th, and concludes at midnight on March 31st of the following year.

While participating in the mini season and regular season, please keep in mind that snorkeling or diving is not allowed within 300 feet of residential or commercial shoreline. This includes canals and any public or private marinas. Local rules and regulations may vary, so always make sure you’re aware of the specific guidelines in the area you’ll be lobstering.

Now that you’re familiar with the dates and duration of both the mini season and regular lobster season, you can plan your lobstering activities confidently and knowledgeably. Remember to follow all rules and regulations and enjoy your time on the water!

PRO TIP: Head down to the Key for a few days before lobster mini season starts, and do some offshore fishing (you can catch mahi mahi in the keys). We love this tour for offshore fishing!

Participating Locations

If you are planning to participate in the mini lobster season, it’s important to know where you can go lobster hunting legally. Monroe County, which encompasses most of the Florida Keys and is part of the Everglades, is a popular location for this activity. Within this region, there are several unique places to catch lobsters.

Biscayne National Park is one such location, boasting an underwater playground that allows you to explore its coral reefs and enjoy the variety of marine life. However, make sure to check the park’s specific regulations and permitted areas for lobster hunting.

Everglades National Park also offers a chance to search for lobsters within its vast and diverse ecosystem. Although the park stretches across more than 1.5 million acres, it’s crucial to pay careful attention to designated zones and restrictions to ensure your lobster hunting activities are within these boundaries.

Dry Tortugas National Park is another scenic location to consider, but lobster hunting is not permitted in its waters. So, avoid venturing to this park to hunt lobsters and instead enjoy the area’s natural beauty and historic landmarks.

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is renowned for its marine life and coral reefs, and it provides a prime spot for lobster hunting. Familiarize yourself with the sanctuary’s specific restrictions regarding lobster hunting, as well as the coral reefs and sea life that must be treated with care.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park should also be on your list of potential lobster hunting spots. Located within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, this park is home to the only living coral barrier reef in the United States. Be sure to follow the park’s guidelines and rules to protect the vibrant marine ecosystem while enjoying your lobster pursuit.

By understanding the locations where lobster hunting is allowed during the mini-lobster season, you can ensure a memorable and responsible experience. Always adhere to the regulations and limitations set by these parks and sanctuaries to conserve the region’s natural beauty and ecological balance.

License and Permit Requirements

florida mini lobster season

To participate in the mini lobster season, you need to obtain a few necessary licenses and permits. First and foremost, you must have a recreational saltwater fishing license. This license is required for all anglers who are fishing for any species of saltwater fish, including lobsters.

In addition to your saltwater fishing license, a separate lobster permit is also required. The lobster permit grants you permission to harvest spiny lobsters during the specified mini season dates, and it must be kept in your possession at all times while you are fishing.

To obtain your recreational saltwater fishing license and lobster permit, you can generally purchase them online through your state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website, or visit local vendors such as tackle shops and fishing spots.

Please be aware of the specific limits on the number of lobsters you are allowed to catch during the mini season. For Florida, the daily bag limit is six per person in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park, while the rest of the state allows for 12 lobsters per person. Always double-check the regulations, as size limits and catch limits can change from season to season.

By ensuring you have the appropriate licenses and permits, and adhering to the established rules and regulations, you can help preserve the spiny lobster population and enjoy a successful and responsible lobster fishing experience.

Regulations and Restrictions

During the mini lobster season, there are specific rules and regulations set forth by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to ensure a sustainable harvest and protect the lobster population. It’s essential that you, as a responsible diver, follow these guidelines and remain within the legal boundaries.

Firstly, you must know the minimum size limit for lobsters. The carapace (hard part of the shell) must measure greater than three inches in length. To ensure compliance, always carry a measuring device with you and measure the lobsters while they are still in the water. If a lobster is undersized, release it back into the water immediately.

Furthermore, there are bag and possession limits to be aware of. During the lobster sport season, you are allowed to harvest six lobsters per person per day in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park. In other areas of Florida, the daily limit is 12 lobsters per person during the mini-season. Remember, these limits apply even when you’re on the water or at the dock; exceeding these limits can result in hefty fines.

When it comes to safety, always use a dive flag while lobster hunting. This flag must be displayed whenever you are diving and taken down when you are underway. Follow the idle speed rule when you are within 300 feet of your dive flag (or 100 feet if in a channel), as this helps ensure the safety of both you and other boaters in the area.

Lastly, pay close attention to the boundaries of the Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPAs), Ecological Reserves, and Coral Reef Protection Areas within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Harvesting lobsters is strictly prohibited within these zones, and violating these restrictions can result in severe penalties. Always check the Florida Fish and Wildlife’s website for updates on specific areas and their boundaries.

📍PRO TIP: You can easily grab your fishing & lobstering licenses online here.

Harvesting Techniques

florida mini lobster season
Florida Lobster Mini Season

When you’re planning to take part in the mini lobster season, having the right harvesting techniques is crucial for a successful catch. Let’s take a look at some methods and gear you may utilize during the two-day event to maximize your lobster hunting experience.

Diving and snorkeling are the most popular methods to catch lobsters during the mini season. Whether you choose to scuba dive or snorkel, ensure that you have proper dive gear, such as fins and masks, to increase your mobility and visibility underwater. Familiarize yourself with the local regulations regarding dive flags, as divers must remain within a specific distance of their flags.

Nighttime diving is a popular choice for many lobster hunters as these nocturnal creatures tend to be more active during the night. It is essential to be equipped with reliable underwater flashlights to enhance visibility and a net or catch bag to secure your catch.

🤿We love this guided scuba dive experience if you’re looking to book a scuba charter, because it offers the use of scuba equipment and a guided dive for such an affordable price.

A popular and effective tool to catch lobsters is the tickle stick. The tickle stick is a long, slender rod used to coax lobsters out of their hiding spots, making it easier to catch them. When using a tickle stick, remember to gently prod the lobster, not to harm or damage it, as you guide it out into the open.

Once the lobster is within reach, you can use a net or even your hands to catch it. Make sure to grasp the lobster firmly around its carapace to avoid getting pinched by its claws. Note that traps are not allowed during the mini lobster season, so be prepared to use hands-on methods instead.

It’s essential to measure each lobster while still in the water, as the carapace must be greater than three inches for it to be legal. Familiarize yourself with the daily bag limit to ensure you’re following the rules during the mini lobster season.

In summary, equip yourself with the necessary gear, such as dive equipment, tickle sticks, nets, and proper measuring tools. Follow local rules and regulations, and remember to be respectful of the environment and fellow divers as you enjoy the thrill of hunting lobsters during the two-day mini lobster season in Florida.

Quick Shop List of Equipment Needed:

Here’s a quick list of some of the equipment you’ll need for free diving for lobster that we have used, and love and easily available on Amazon:

👉PRO TIP: Make sure your diving bag is ZIPPED when underwater! It’s frustrating to do the hard work to catch the lobster, only to have them escape out of the other end because you forgot to zip it! Trust me, this has embarrassingly happened to me!

Catch Limits and Measurements

florida mini lobster season

During lobster mini-season, it’s essential to know the catch limits and measurements to ensure you’re abiding by the regulations. Depending on the location, the catch limit varies. In Monroe County and Biscayne National Park, you are allowed to harvest six lobsters per person per day. In other parts of Florida, the limit is 12 lobsters per person during the mini season.

Before you set out on your lobster hunting adventure, equip yourself with a lobster gauge to measure your catch accurately. The carapace, or body shell, must be at least three inches in length to be a legally harvested lobster. Make sure to measure each lobster in the water before putting it in your cooler. This will help you avoid inadvertently taking undersized lobsters.

When you spot a lobster, look for the presence of eggs. Egg-bearing females can be easily identified by the bright orange mass beneath the tail. It is crucial to release any egg-bearing lobsters immediately, as it is illegal to harvest them.

During lobster mini-season, numerous boaters venture out to the waters to participate. To ensure safety, maintain a proper distance from other boaters and their yellow buoys, which mark the location of their lobster traps. Be prepared by bringing all the necessary equipment, including your lobster gauge, gloves, a tickle stick, and a net.

Once you have caught your lobsters, store them in a cooler with ice to keep them fresh. Be aware that the daily possession limit while on the water is equal to the daily bag limit, so make sure not to exceed that amount.

👉Remember that the lobster mini-season is separate from the commercial season. As non-commercial participants, you are required to follow the rules and regulations set for the mini season. By adhering to these catch limits and size requirements, you can enjoy a fun and successful lobster mini-season while protecting the future of the lobster population.

Rules for Specific Locations

When planning your mini lobster season activities, it’s essential to be aware of the different rules and regulations for specific locations throughout the Florida Keys. These rules ensure the safety and well-being of both the lobsters and those participating in the season.

In Marathon, Key West, Layton, and Key Colony Beach, lobster hunting is regulated, with restrictions on where you can catch lobsters. Remember to follow the guidance set by the local authorities and not to hunt lobsters within city limits or in restricted areas such as canals, shorelines, residential, and commercial shorelines.

For those lobster hunting in unincorporated areas, such as the waters around Islamorada, you should be mindful of the rules governing both public and private marinas. Be respectful of the privacy of residents, and ensure you do not trespass in restricted areas or disturb residential communities.

Regardless of your location, always display a dive flag while lobster hunting to alert boaters to your presence and maintain safe practices for all participants. This precaution helps prevent accidents and lets others know that you are engaged in an underwater activity.

When lobster hunting in state waters, be sure to follow the regulations set by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Be diligent in adhering to size and daily bag limit requirements, the possession and use of certain equipment, and the proper handling and measuring of lobsters.

To protect both yourself and the natural resources of the Florida Keys, always ensure that you familiarize yourself with the specific rules and regulations concerning mini lobster season in your chosen location. By doing so, you can enjoy a fun, safe, and successful lobster hunting experience.

Safety and Enforcement

During the lobster mini-season, it is crucial to prioritize safety and follow regulations to ensure a positive experience for everyone. Law enforcement, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), will be actively monitoring the activities during the mini-season to enforce regulations and promote safety for those participating.

And by actively looking, we mean by air, land, and sea. They take these regulations seriously and there can be extreme consequences if you don’t follow the rules.

First and foremost, make sure you have a recreational saltwater fishing license and a lobster permit. These are required for all boaters participating in the mini-season. Be aware of your daily bag limit, and adhere to it. This helps conserve the lobster population for future seasons.

To avoid accidents and injuries, do not neglect proper dive planning or underestimate the importance of physical fitness. Refrain from alcohol consumption during lobster hunting, as it impairs judgment and increases the risk of accidents. Also, be aware that snorkeling or diving within 300 feet of residential or commercial shorelines is prohibited. This includes canals and any public or private marinas.

Remember that FWC officers and other law enforcement agencies will be on the water for your safety and the well-being of the environment. They will also be enforcing boating safety regulations, such as wearing personal flotation devices and displaying proper lighting.

Ensure that you are familiar with FWC guidelines regarding size limits, harvesting equipment, and protected areas. Violations can result in fines or even criminal charges. Boat ramps and checkpoints may be set up by FWC officers to inspect catches and verify compliance with regulations.

Recap: Mini Lobster Season

Mini lobster season is an exciting time for lobster enthusiasts in Florida. This two-day event allows individuals to catch their own lobsters and enjoy them fresh from the ocean. However, it is important to follow all regulations and guidelines set forth by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to ensure the sustainability of the lobster population and the safety of all participants. With proper preparation and respect for the environment, mini lobster season can be a fun and enjoyable experience for all involved.

Frequently Asked Questions

When does mini lobster season start in Florida?

Mini lobster season in Florida starts at 12:01 am on the last Wednesday of July and runs through 12:00 midnight on Thursday. In 2023, it will start on July 26th and end on July 27th.

What are the regulations for mini lobster season?

During mini lobster season, you must follow specific rules, including:

  1. A daily bag limit of 6 lobsters per person in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park, or 12 lobsters per person in other Florida state waters.
  2. Measuring carapace length correctly (it must be larger than 3 inches).
  3. Lobsters must be measured using a measuring device while in the water.
  4. Egg-bearing female lobsters are illegal to harvest.
  5. A Florida recreational saltwater fishing license and spiny lobster permit are required.

Always verify regulations with Florida Fish and Wildlife to stay updated on any changes.

How do I obtain a Florida spiny lobster permit?

You can obtain a Florida spiny lobster permit by purchasing one along with your Florida recreational saltwater fishing license. These can be bought online, over the phone, or at local retail stores like tackle shops and outdoor sporting goods stores. Be sure to have the appropriate license and permit before participating in mini lobster season.

What is the difference between mini lobster season and regular lobster season?

Mini lobster season is a two-day event aimed at giving recreational lobster hunters a chance to catch lobsters before the commercial season begins. The regular lobster season runs for eight months, starting from August 6th through March 31st. Rules and regulations may vary slightly between the two seasons, so always verify with Florida Fish and Wildlife.

What equipment is recommended for mini lobster season?

Common equipment used during mini lobster season includes a tickle stick or snare, a net, gloves, a measuring device, and a dive flag. Make sure to have your equipment in good working order and familiarize yourself with its proper use before hitting the water.

Are there specific locations for mini lobster season in the Florida Keys?

Lobsters can be found throughout the Florida Keys in various locations like coral reefs, hard-bottom areas, and ledges in shallow waters. Familiarize yourself with the specific boundaries for mini lobster season to ensure you are within legal limits when lobster hunting. Some popular lobstering areas include Marathon, Key Largo, and Key West. Remember to respect local restrictions, private property, and protected areas during your lobster hunt.

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