Lobster Diving in the Florida Keys
At the top of every diver’s bucket list is lobster season in the Florida Keys. Lobster diving is a lot like spearfishing – harder than you think. And there’s a reason why they call lobster divers "bug hunters”. These critters are hard to find.
That’s why it pays to find the right charter operation. Over the years, our experienced guides and crew, have guided thousands of divers to their first lobsters in the Florida Keys waters off Hawks Cay.
When and How to Lobster Dive?
You can get first crack at these tasty crustaceans come July, when the special two-day spiny lobster sport season opens or tie your adventure into a Florida Keys fishing adventure when the regular lobster season opens on August 6.
Divers call lobsters “bugs” because the crustaceans and insects come from the same phylum, Arthropoda. Shared traits include jointed appendages–legs, antennae and mouthparts–hence the bug reference.
The Florida, or Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, ranges from North Carolina to Brazil. It doesn’t have the large claws for hunting and defense like its cousin from the state of Maine. It’s main defense is speed.
Lobsters prefer reefs and rocking outcroppings, but those caught unprotected on the open sand are not easy pickings. With one flip of the tail these critters can take off, leaving a diver bewildered and empty-handed.
What do I need to know?
Before you go bug hunting, you need to know how to measure a lobster. A legal bug has a carapace (shell that covers its body) length of 3 inches and weighs about 1 pound. Lobsters smaller than this are too "short" to take.
You’ll also need to know how to identify an egg-bearing female. Female lobsters carry eggs (you will see them directly under the tail) for about a month anytime between April and August. An egg-bearing female is said to be "berried," and under the regulations they must be released unharmed.
A typical female lobster can produce about 300,000 orange-colored eggs per clutch. Large females can produce as many as 2-million eggs per clutch. The "berries" start out orange but darken as the eggs mature.
You may keep six lobsters per person per day in Monroe County (the Florida Keys). The possession limit on the water is equal to the daily bag limit. The charter fleet at Hawks Cay carries a lobster license that covers all passengers onboard, so there is no need for lobster divers to carry their own license.
The regular lobster season in the Florida Keys is always August 6 through March 31
The Mini Lobster season is always the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July. Make sure to always verify dates and regulations with Florida Fish and Wildlife.
Requirements and Restrictions:
The harvest of lobster is prohibited during both the two-day sport season and regular season in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, and no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.