Lobster season always seems to be right around the corner, so with Lobster Season in Florida rapidly approaching, we here at Sailing on the Cheap thought that it would be a good idea to give all you out there cruising and sailing on a budget a quick little lesson in how to catch a lobster. I am sure while boating around, you have seen all of those lobster traps, spiny lobster traps and crab traps marked by their little lobster trap buoys, or perhaps have been out while the many lobster boats make their rounds back to their traps. Each buoy has a particular marking that is recognized by the lobster fisherman. DO NOT TOUCH OR MOLEST THOSE TRAPS. Sure it is against the law, but will also get you in a lot of trouble with whatever local lobster fisherman’s traps there are.
Besides stealing from big, angry lobster fisherman, there are many ways to catch a lobster: through your own lobster traps as discussed above, through a net called a hoop net, gigging or spearing lobster (no longer allowed in most, if not all locations), and diving for lobster. We will only be discussing the method of diving for the florida spiny lobster or its caribbean cousins. No matter where you are, you should always check the local regulations. Florida begins with the Florida Mini Lobster Season, which, if you are down in the Florida Keys for lobster during the yearly Lobster Mini Season, expect it to be a zoo. Now, the lobster are not just located in the Florida Keys, but many people go there for the Florida Keys Lobster Season. Realistically though, you could feasibly go anywhere in Florida for the mini, or regular season if you know where to find the lobster. The farther north you go, generally speaking, the deeper you will be diving for the lobster, and the larger they will be. Fishing Regulations for Florida and the rest of the United States are located here, and Fishing Regulations for the Caribbean are located here.
After checking Fishing Regulations, what lobster fishing gear do you need to dive for lobster. The bear bones list is below:
- Fishing license or permit for wherever you are fishing (Florida requires a saltwater fishing license and a lobster permit);
- Dive flag – Safety first;
- Measuring device for measuring size of lobster;
- Basic diving or snorkeling gear – for snorkeling you would need a mask, snorkel and fins;
- Gloves – the Florida Spiny Lobster is not a comfortable creature to handle without;
- Hand net;
- Tickle stick or lobster probe – you can find these at any dive shop. You should look for a long one with a slight curve at the end;
- Dive/gear/mesh bag – this is optional, but will help if you catch multiple lobster and are away from your boat.
There is certainly other optional gear you can purchase, but you really do not need to as this will get you by. So now you have all your gear, what do you do?
If you do not already have locations where you might find lobster, you are going to have to go around looking for them. They will probably not be in grassy areas, but that is not always the case. The easiest thing to do is to look for coral formations such as brain head coral. Lobster invariably like to hide under something, be it a big coral head or a little rock ledge. To find these locations you can try to look around, try to sight above water, but sometimes the most effective method is to just jump in the water with your snorkel gear and have someone tow you around with the boat or dingy. Besides looking for coral and rock formations, the tell tale sign a lobster is under there will be his long tentacles sticking out from underneath the formation. You will know it when you see it, and once you know what it looks like you will never forget it.
Once you found a lobster, you will need your gloves, tickle stick and net.
- The net needs to go in one hand, and the tickle stick in the other. I usually put the tickle stick in my dominant hand.
- Dive down to where the lobster is and take the tickle stick and slide it past the lobster until the curved end is behind him.
- Slowly bring the handle back towards you “tickling” the lobster out of his hole.
- Once his tail is far enough out of his hole that you can get your net behind him, stick the front end of the net behind him and push it down to the floor.
- The lobster will flick back into your net and so long as you secure him in some fashion, you have him caught. Measure the lobster before you take it out of the water. Regulations are different, but Florida requires that the carapace (measure from between his eyes to the where his tail connects with the “head”) be 3 inches.
Thats it. Have fun, enjoy, mind regulations, be respectful of the environment and the ocean, and be safe.