July 19, 2015
As July comes to a close, many divers can’t help but think about the tasty crustacean known as the spiny lobster.
Here in Florida, the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July (July 29-30, 2015) is slated as the two-day lobster season, and the regular harvest season begins not long after (Aug. 8 this year). Divers from all over the state become “bug hunters,” descending on the Florida Keys and other lobster haunts in search of this tasty, yet elusive, crustacean.
Wrangling these spiny lobsters takes certain equipment, some of it absolutely essential. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to become a successful bug hunter:
Measuring device: Lobster hunters are required by state regulations to use, and possess at all times, a measuring device. The carapace of a spiny lobster must be measured in the water, and it must measure larger than 3 inches for the lobster to be harvested. The specfics are outlined on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website detailing the lobster seasons’ regulations. Cost: $3.95.
Tickle stick: Spiny lobsters like to hide around reefs, ledges and rocky outcroppings. They need to be coaxed out of these tight spots, so the tickle stick (top, at right) helps manuever them toward capture while avoiding the spiny antennae they use as defense. Our collapsible tickle stick extends to 4 feet. Cost: $32.95.
Snare stick: Another defense measure the spiny lobster employs is speed. With a flick of its tail, a lobster can escape into open water. The snare stick (bottom) enables the stealthy bug hunter to corral the lobster from behind by drawing a loop around the tail. Cost: $49.95.
Gloves: Because divers are dealing with a prickly foe and all lobsters must be measured and females must be checked for eggs, gloves are essential protection. These gloves are form-fitting and can be used for spearfishing as well. Cost: $24.95.
Net: A short-handled net, used in combination with a tickle stick, can accelerate the catch rate. Cost: $15.95.
Lobster bag: Some divers use an ordinary mesh bag, but experienced lobster hunters know that a bag that clips on and contains at door or lid is handy when it comes time to secure your prey. Cost: $32.95.
Video: The popular how-to video, Chasing Tails, outlines the basics for successful lobster hunting. Cost: $19.99.
Noteworthy: The FWC has a Special Lionfish Removal Opportunity at play during the two-day sport season in 2015. Lionfish are an invasive species, and the state is working to eradicate them. Divers who harvest 10 or more lionfish per day are allowed to harvest one additional spiny lobster during the two-day sport season. For complete details, visit the FWC website.