Mini lobster season isn’t about catching very, very small lobsters, but is about getting in a couple days of red-hot recreational lobster action before the commercial season kicks in. The regular lobster season starts in early August (on the sixth, for 2022) and runs through the end of March. But on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July, recreational lobstering fans get an early crack at those scrumptious sea creatures in the form of the two-day mini season. Officially it’s called “sport season” since all the harvest takes place entirely on a recreational basis, well before all those commercial lobster traps are set out.
So, when is mini lobster season in the Florida Keys (and across the entire state of Florida) for 2022? This year, it’s July 27 and 28 beginning at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and running through 12:00 midnight on Thursday.
Lobster mini season rules and regulations
Minimum size for mini lobster season 2022 in the Keys is a carapace length of three inches, and your catch is limited to six lobster per person per day (outside of Monroe County and Biscayne National Park, the limit is a dozen lobster during the mini season).
Remember, season dates, size limits, and catch limits can change from season to season and area to area, so you should always check the regulations before departing on a lobstering trip. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spiny lobster webpage has the latest information regarding all the rules and regs.
Other important things to know when lobstering include:
- Lobsters with “berries” (eggs) visible on the underside of their tail have to be released immediately.
- Lobsters must be measured while still in the water.
- Don’t touch the coral, and especially don’t drop anchor on it.
- Look for yellow buoys, which are used to mark areas where lobstering is off-limits.
- You must have a recreational saltwater fishing license and a lobster permit.
- Night diving is prohibited in the Keys during the mini season.
How to Catch Lobster
To catch lobster in the Keys, most people use two tools: a net and a tickle stick. Lobsters like to hide in holes and under coral or obstructions.
- Once you’ve spotted one, you can slide the end of your tickle stick into the hole or crevasse and tap the lobster on the tail or use the stick to push it forward and out of the hole.
- Once it’s out in the open you place your net behind the lobster.
- Then by tapping it on the head with your tickle stick, you can get the lobster to pump its tail and shoot backwards — its natural way of trying to escape predators.
- When done properly, instead of shooting away the lobster will shoot right into your net.
You can try lobstering either while snorkeling or scuba diving. Remember that whenever you’re snorkeling or diving in Florida (whether you’re chasing after lobster or not), your boat must display a “diver down warning device” including a flag and/or dive buoy. This is a particularly important rule to remember if you visit the Keys and rent a boat to go out and catch lobsters, since it won’t necessarily come equipped with a diver down warning device.
How to Grill a Lobster
Let’s say you’ve come to the Keys for mini lobster season, had a great day with your tickle stick and net, and loaded up the cooler with these tempting crustaceans. What’s next? Prepare yourself for a serious feast!
- Split the lobster or just the tail (many people prefer to eat the tail, only) down the middle with a stiff knife, and turn it shell-side-down.
- Melt a stick of butter and mix in a tablespoon of minced garlic plus a pinch each of salt, cayenne pepper, and cumin.
- Baste the meat of the lobster with the butter mix.
- Place the lobster shell-side-down on the grill, and close the grill cover.
- After about five minutes when the shell has turned orange, baste the meat with more buttery mix and then flip the lobster.
- Allow it to grill meat-side-down for three or four minutes, then pull it off the grill and squeeze a fresh sliced lime or lemon over the meat immediately before serving.
Be sure to read Boating in Key West, Florida: Everything You Need to Know.
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