Lobster Mania

By: Captain Tony Young

The magical last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July has gone and passed. This two-day window, most commonly known as mini lobster season, is a short pre opener that allows the recreational hunter a chance to hunt before the regular season opens on August 6th. We all have different opinions about mini lobster season, some of us cherish this time and others hibernate from it. Either way, lobster hunting is a blast, and this year was no exception!

I always feel like I am in a scene from the Pirates of the Caribbean, while diving for lobsters in the Florida Keys. Boats just appear, without notice, just like the Black Pearl surfacing from the depths of the ocean!

This year’s mini season brought on some challenges, big storms and lots of rain. Most divers waited for the weather to pass, but those that went early were rewarded with a good bounty of lobster. The bayside always seems to be the most popular during the short two-day window, however I usually like to stick to the ocean side. There are less boats and larger lobster, for the most part. It seems like the deeper water holds some quality sized bugs and you generally won’t have to worry about other boats running you over. This year’s mini season was without a doubt one to remember. As much as I dislike the heavy traffic on my way home, I truly look forward to the lobster hunt every year!

With mini season in the past, we start gearing up for opening week. This year’s lobster opener was a great time, we had some first-time divers and some experienced lobster hunters. Think back to when you caught your first lobster. The idea of diving down and tickling them into your net, it always sounds way easier than it actually is. This is a blast for us as guides, it is pure organized chaos and a ton of fun! Watching divers catch their first lobster, then their second, is very rewarding. We were blessed with some great trips this year and a lot of lobster. Putting a day of lobstering together is a ton of work, it’s always a special memory when it pays off.

My favorite way to hunt lobster is on scuba with a tickle stick and net. The reason I like scuba is because we get to dive deeper with guests and enjoy more marine life. It is also important to use a tickle stick to assess the lobster before you net, snare, or grab them. When tickling a lobster, an egg bearing female will always keep her tail curled, protecting her eggs. She will be more stubborn to come out of her hole, unlike a non-egg bearing female or male lobster that will walk right out. Keep in mind that not all lobster gauges are exact, most are slightly over three inches. If it comes with a tickle stick, it is likely to be larger than three inches. Using a zookeeper or hard container to store your lobsters can be a much better option than a traditional mesh bag. This will prevent a curious nurse shark or grouper from taking a swipe at your prized catch when you’re not looking. These are all tips that have helped us make the most of our time in the water.

Mini lobster season and opening week is one of the most exciting times in the Florida Keys. Local or visitor, freediver or scuba diver, lobster hunting will provide you with memories and meals that you will never forget! As you continue to hunt through the year, be courteous to other boats and always stay within your bag limit for the day. No lobster is worth getting hurt or in trouble over!
Dive Safe!