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Lobster Fishing In Florida Keys 

Whether lobster fishing Content Keys in the Gulf of Mexico, the wrecks and reefs of the Atlantic, or the shallow Key West flats, spiny lobster are abundant everywhere.

Lobster hunting is restricted however, and the Florida lobster season is broken down into 2 parts.

First there is the mini lobster sport season. This is an often wild and hectic precursor to the regular and commercial lobster harvesting season.

This 2 day Florida Keys event occurs each year on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July and the daily boat bag limit is 6 Florida lobster per person.

"Bug hunters" from all over, converge on the Florida Keys for this highly anticipated 2 day lobster season. Traffic on and off the water can become congested, and anyone attending this Florida Keys event needs to exercise caution on the water, in the water, and on the roads.

Shortly after the mini lobster season, the regular and commercial lobster season in the Keys begins. This 8 month long lobster hunting season runs from Aug. 6 - March 31 with a daily "on the water" bag limit of 6 spiny lobster per person.

Different Florida Keys fishing charter companies offer lobster fishing as one of the options available on a fishing trip.

If it's lobster season, and you're planning a fishing charter trip, you may want to consider adding this to your day.

The advantage is, the Captain and his crew have the equipment and the know how needed for helping you to bring in your lobster.

FishingBooker is the best at coordinating trips and helping you find the exact fishing charter you want to go out with.

The reason? They have an extensive search criteria you can use so you can check information on the boat, where they go, what they use for bait, type of fishing gear, type of fish they go after, just about everything you could possibly want to know when booking a fishing charter trip.

Since FishingBooker is so comprehensive I have partnered with them as an affiliate and I'm very pleased to be able to make it easier, quicker and even more affordable for you to book your next Florida Keys fishing trip.

As a trusted Reader of mine, I also want to be as up front with you as I can. As an affiliate of FishingBooker if you click a link to a charter, book it and go on it, I stand to earn a small commission. The charter does not cost you any more booking here than if you booked elsewhere since this is what being an "affiliate" means.

To find all the Florida Keys fishing charters that include spiny lobster, you can click the following link to Florida Keys lobster fishing charters, and it's here that you can drill down to:

. what you want to spend
. what part of the Florida Keys you want to fish
. where you want to fish (flats, backcountry, reef, deep sea)
. what you want to fish for other than lobster (snook, snapper, shark, wahoo)
. boat and crew details
. options and amenities
. fishing tackle and more!

For the region of the Florida Keys you plan on fishing, you'll be able to narrow it down to that section, and then seek out those charters who also include lobstering as part of their package or you can see about booking with these charter companies.

Spiny Lobster Facts and Characteristics

Unlike their cousin, the large pinchered American lobster, warm water loving spiny lobsters are a mottle colored crayfish type crustacean without large claws.

With 5 pair of legs, the Florida spiny lobster's most obvious features are their numerous forward leaning spines located on their body. "Bug hunters" will also notice that they sport a long pair of antennae and have a large hooked rostral horn above each eye.

The most prevalent Florida spiny lobster is the Caribbean spiny lobster or the Panulirus argus. Easily identifiable, this spiny lobster has a brownish gray striped body with yellow spots on it's tail. Reaching 23 inches or more, they can attain a weight of 12 pounds.

However, during the 2012 mini lobster season, a fisherman lobstering in the Florida Keys off Marathon caught a 4 foot long lobster. To put it's shear size into perspective, he snapped a picture of this massive spiny lobster on top of his large ice chest.

Another species of spiny lobster that rarely exceeds the legal bag limit, is the smooth tailed spiny lobster or Panulirus Lauvicauda. This species is characterized by numerous white spots found on it's segmented tail.

The third species of Florida spiny lobster is the spotted spiny lobster or the Panulirus Guttatus. This species is identifiable by it's dark green-brown abdomen, and mottled yellow, orange, brown and blue markings over it's body. It also has multiple pale yellow spots found over it's eyes.

Without the protection of large pinchers, each of these species relies on speed as it's best defense. The multiple segmented tail allows the spiny lobster to curl it up, then use it as a propelling force to drive it backward through the water and away from danger (or into your awaiting net.)

As part of their growing life cycle, spiny lobsters molt their shells numerous times throughout the year. They then eat their shells for the nutritional value they contain.

Once lobsters attain a length of approximately 8 - 9 inches, they have reached sexual maturity. When lobster fishing, any females captured carrying eggs on their underbellies are off limits to harvesting.

Spiny Lobster With Eggs

Florida Spiny Lobster With Eggs Are Not Harvestable
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, Dale M. McDonald Collection

Apart from the spiny lobster, the Florida Keys is also home to the slipper lobster, a flat expanded looking crustacean typically found at great depths such as along the continental shelf.

Another related species is the smaller furry lobster, appropriately named due to it's covering of short hairs all over it's body

Lobster Fishing Tips

When lobster hunting, one of the most important things to remember is that these spiny crustaceans move incredibly fast. Apart from speed, the spiny lobster has another strong defense mechanism - their spines. If you're lobster fishing in Florida Keys you'll need to make sure you're properly outfitted.

Here's a list of lobster hunting essentials:

1. Saltwater fishing license and a lobster stamp
2. A proper Florida lobster measuring gauge
3. Lobster gloves to protect your hands from the sharp spines
4. Lobster mesh net
5. Lobster tickle stick
6. Underwater light to look in holes and crevices and to temporarily blind the lobster so they don't flee
7. If you're Florida Keys diving or snorkeling for lobster, you'll require a diver down flag and proper diving gear and/or snorkeling gear

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When lobster fishing, you'll often find lobster traveling single file in large numbers. Movement often occurs at night, and during the regular / commercial lobster season, night harvesting for lobster is permitted and is highly productive.

During the day, Florida lobster can occasionally be spotted on the move, however this is when they usually hole up in caves, under rocks and in the nooks and crannies of the coral reefs. If you're Florida Keys diving or snorkeling for lobster, look for antennae poking out from possible hiding spots. Finding one spiny lobster means more are likely hiding within, and this increases your odds of finding one or more within the legal bag limit.

One of the more frustrating aspects of lobster fishing is that last year's hot spot is not necessarily this years. The spiny lobster's constant search for food means they are always traveling. Lobster hunters need to keep moving too, looking for appropriate lobster habitat and the telltale antennae poking out.

Once you come across a 'lobster den', don't reach in eagerly with your hands. More dangerous creatures can be lurking inside. A good precautionary rule of thumb is if you notice one antennae pointing outward, and the other pointing backward, chances are something less friendly is lurking inside.

If you do find a lobster hiding out in a crevice, shine a light at the lobster to temporarily blind it and then carefully reach behind it with your tickle stick, lightly tapping it on it's tail.

At this point the lobster will begin to move forward and you'll have to be fast, grabbing it quickly with your gloved hand, in a back to frontal motion to protect your hand from it's spines.

Once you have the lobster, make sure you measure it's length from between the horns above it's eyes to the middle rear edge of it's carapace. Using the gauge, if the spiny lobster measures greater than 3 inches, you can put it in your bag, tail first, intact, remembering to secure your bag.

If the lobster gets away from you once it leaves it's hiding spot and you're unable, or unwilling to grab it with your hand, use your tickle stick. By lightly touching it on it's forehead, it will automatically propel backward into your awaiting net.

Lobster Fishing Regulations

The following Florida Keys fishing restrictions are relevant to lobster harvesting:

1. Night diving for lobster is prohibited during the 2 day mini lobster sport season
2. In John Pennekamp State Park lobster harvesting is prohibited during the 8 month regular and commercial season
3. In the Dry Tortugas National Park, Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary lobster fishing is prohibited during both the 2 day mini lobster season and the 8 month regular commercial season

Regardless of the lobster season Florida Keys lobstering has common restrictions and Florida fishing regulations:

1. Saltwater fishing license and lobster permit are required
2. A maximum "on water" bag limit of 6 per person/day
3. "Off water" bag limit equal to the daily bag limit on the first day, and double the daily bag limit on the second day
4. A proper measuring gauge must be on hand and used at all times
5. Spiny lobster must be landed in one piece. Removing the tail from the body is illegal in Florida State water
6. No Florida lobster hunting using any device such as spears and hooks that will crush, crack or harm the exoskeletal shell are allowed
7. Recreational trapping is not allowed
8. Disturbing or raiding commercial lobster traps is illegal and punishable
9. No egg bearing lobster of any species can be harvested
10. The lobster's carapace must be measured in the water and be greater than 3 inches

How To Measure Spiny Lobster

How To Properly Measure For Florida Spiny Lobster
Courtesy of

This handy printable spiny lobster brochure for Monroe County provides additional useful lobster harvesting tips and restrictions you should be aware of. It's also advisable to check with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission for any updates or changes to these important lobster fishing regulations.

Where to Go Lobster Fishing

Just about anywhere you find water in the Florida Keys, you'll find Florida lobster. From the super shallow Key West flats to the canals of Key Colony Beach. From the deeper depths of the Atlantic Ocean to the warm shallow water of the Gulf of Mexico, Florida lobster abound.

Areas that have hiding spots are obvious places to start. Lobster hunting on the vast number of Florida Keys coral reefs and shipwrecks will produce a good showing of spiny lobster.

Many popular Florida Keys diving and snorkeling sites such as Molasses Reef sport numerous spiny lobster, but they're also part of the Sanctuary Protected Area and are off limits to lobster harvesting. However, popular Florida Keys diving sites such as Cannabis Cruiser, Adelaide Baker, Delta Shoal, and Pickles Reef are just several locations you can go "bug hunting".

Other popular Florida Keys recreational destinations including Coupon Bight and Content Keys, renowned for their lobster fishing.

If you are an avid diver or snorkeler, you can cross check our 100+ diving pages to see which Florida Keys dive site locations are not SPA protected. You can access these pages from our Navigation Bar or from our Florida Keys Diving Page under the "Scuba Diving Florida Keys Wrecks and Reefs" section where the links to the many reef and wreck pages are broken down by region.

If you're diving Florida Keys, there's one rule of thumb to remember. When lobster fishing - the deeper you go, the bigger the prize!

Cooking Lobster

The methods used for cooking Florida lobster are relatively quick and easy. The sweet succulent lobster meat is perfect boiled or grilled, then paired with drawn butter and lemon sauce.

To prepare your Florida lobster, start by cutting the lobster in half lengthwise. The stomach and intestinal veins are then easy to remove.

Carefully clean and rinse the body cavity, and once the lobster tail has been lightly seasoned and cooked, use a sharp pointed knife to gently pry the meat from the shell's edge. Once this is accomplished pull the meat out in an upward and forward motion.

Lobster fishing is fun, but eating lobster is even better. To celebrate this delightful treat, each year the Key West Lobsterfest Street Fair puts on a spread of 'everything lobster'.

The combination of live music, interesting arts and crafts, and lobster meals artfully and temptingly prepared, add to the flair of this popular 3 day Key West event.

Just one more thing to get you in the mood for lobster fishing for your own tasty bug.

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Local Weather Zip Codes

Key Largo - 33037
Marathon - 33050
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