Lobstering in the Florida Keys


The two-day Sport Lobster Season is always the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July. The bag limits are 6 per person per day for Monroe County and Biscayne National Park, and 12 per person per day for the rest of Florida. The possession limit on the water is equal to the daily bag limit, and off the water is equal to the daily bag limit on the first day, and double the daily bag limit on the second day. Possession limits are enforced on and off the water. Spiny lobster has a minimum size limit that must be larger than 3" carapace, measured in the water. A reminder that possession and use of a measuring device is required at all times, and night diving is prohibited in Monroe County (only during the sport season). A recreational saltwater license and a crawfish permit are needed for harvest. Regular spiny lobster season is August 6 through March 31. The bag limit is 6 per person per day. Harvest of lobster is prohibited in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park during the sport season. Harvest is also prohibited during both the 2-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.

Call (305) 743-2437 or visit http://floridakeys.noaa.gov for information about no take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Please call the FWC Key West office at (305) 292- 0311 or click here for lobster harvesting regulations for Monroe County. Recreational trapping of lobster is prohibited.

LOBSTER BAG LIMITS
Monroe County - 2-Day Sport Season (July 25-26) 6 per person per day
Biscayne National Park - 6 per person per day
Elsewhere - 12 per person per day


Regular Season (August 6 – March 31)
Monroe County -6 per person per day
Biscayne National Park - 6 per person per day
Elsewhere - 6 per person per day

Regardless of what species you are fishing for, bag limits are only for properly licensed individuals and those people exempt from license requirements who are actively harvesting, and those people harvesting may not exceed their individual bag limit and take someone else’s bag limit. That is, people (including children) who are not actively harvesting or are not properly licensed (if a license is required) may NOT be counted for purposes of bag limits.

Measuring Lobster

Each harvester must have a gauge made for measuring lobster while harvesting in the water..
All lobster must be measured in the water and released unharmed if undersized.
Lobster carapace must be greater than three (3) inches.
All recreationally harvested lobster must remain in whole condition while at sea.
Tails can only be separated on land. When the tail is separated from the body, it must be greater than 5-1/2 inches

Lobster Measurements

Sport Season

The two day Sport Lobster Season is always the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July. Begins at 12:01 a.m. on the last Wednesday in July. Ends at 12:00 midnight on the last Thursday in July.

State and Federal Waters

Bag limit: Six (6) per recreational harvester per day. The two day total of twelve lobster per recreational harvester in Monroe County, adjacent Federal waters, and Biscayne National Park can only be possessed when transporting your catch by car on, or after, the second day.

Diving at night for lobster is NOT permitted in Monroe County and adjacent Federal waters. Bully-netting and hoop-netting is permitted al night. “Night” is I hour after official sunset to 1 hour before official sunrise.

Prohibited Areas:
• Artificial Habitats in State Waters
• Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary (closed only to the harvest of spiny lobster)
• Everglades National Park
• Dry Tortugas National Park
• Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

The following no-take areas are marked by 30” diameter round yellow boundary buoys.

• Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPAs)
• Special-use Research Only Areas
• Ecological Reserves (Tortugas ER. not currently marked, refer to OPS coordinates)
• John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
• All of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is closed during the two day Sport Lobster Season to the harvest of spiny lobster.

The following areas are under local jurisdiction and subject to the following:
• Unincorporated Monroe County
• Islamorada, Village of Islands
• City of Key Colony Beach *
• City of Marathon

No diving or snorkeling within:
• 300 feet of improved residential shoreline
• any manmade or private canal
• any public or private marina


** In the City of Key Colony Beach this rule applies during the 4 days preceding Sport Season and continues until 10 days have elapsed after the opening of Regular Season.
Facts For All Seasons:
What To Know Before You Go...
Bag Limits: The federal bag limit cannot be combined with the state bag limit.
Possession: Lobster must be of legal size before they are in possession. NOTE: You may not have lobster in your possession in Everglades National Park.
Egg-bearing (berried) spiny lobster and ridged slipper lobster (also commonly known as shovelnose or bulldozer lobster) must be released unharmed. Stripping egg-bearing females of eggs and possession of spiny or ridged slipper lobster tails from which eggs have been removed is prohibited. Eggs are an orange, yellow, brown, or red mass found covering the underside of the lobster’s tail.
Gear such as spears, hooks, wire snares, and any device which could puncture, penetrate, or crush the shell of the lobster is prohibited.
“Bully—netting” is defined as using a circular frame attached at a right angle to the end of a pole and supporting a conical bag of webbing. Possession of bully nets is prohibited in Everglades National Park.
• “Hoop-netting” is defined as using a frame, circular or otherwise, supporting a shallow bag of webbing and suspended by a line and bridles. Possession of hoop nets is prohibited in Everglades National Park.
“Artificial Habitat” is defined as material (e.g. wood, metal, concrete, plastic) that has been placed to provide cover and habitat for spiny lobster. Does not include fishing gear allowed by the Commission or Florida-DEP or Army Corps permitted artificial reefs (e.g. Duane. Eagle. Thunderbolt).
License Requirements: Recreational harvesters are required to possess a valid Florida Saltwater Fishing License with a current crawfish endorsement. Consult your license agent for exceptions to licensing requirements.
Spanish and slipper lobster are closed year round to harvest in Key Largo and Looe Key Existing Management Areas. Everglades National Park. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Ecological Reserves. Sanctuary Preservation Areas and Special-use Research Only Areas. During the Regular Lobster Season, they are closed to harvest in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Lobster Exclusion Zones and from or within coral formations (patch reefs) within the Park.
Commercial Lobster traps: It is a felony to molest, damage, or take lobster from traps in state or federal waters.
Dive Flag: All divers and snorkelers in the water are required to prominently display a diver down flag.
Coral is protected from damage and taking in slate and federal waters.

Regular Season
The Regular Lobster Season is always August 6 through March 31. Begins at 12:01 am on August 6. Ends at 12:00 midnight on March 31.

State and Federal Waters

Bag Limit: Six (6) per recreational harvester per day
Diving at night for lobster is permitted in state waters.
Prohibited Areas:
• Artificial Habitats in State Waters
• Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary (closed only to the harvest of spiny lobster)
• Everglades National Park
• Dry Tortugas National Park
• Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

The following no-take areas are marked by 30” diameter round yellow boundary buoys.
• Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPAs)
• Special-use Research Only Areas
* Ecological Reserves (Tortugas ER. not currently marked, refer to UPS coordinates)
• John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
• During the Regular Lobster Season no person shall harvest any lobster species from or within any coral formation (patch reef).
• The following ‘Pennekamp Lobster Exclusion Zones” are closed during the Regular Lobster Season to the harvest of any lobster species and are marked with white and orange information spar buoys:
Turtle Rocks
Basin Hills North
Basin Hills East
Basin Hills South
Higdon’s Reef
Cannon Patch
Mosquito Bank North
Mosquito Bank South East
Three Sisters North
Three Sisters South

City of Key Colony Beach
No diving or snorkeling within:
300 feet of improved residential or commercial shoreline, any manmade or private canal, any public or private marina
This rule applies during the 4 days preceding Sport Season and continues until 10 days have elapsed after the opening of Regular Season.

Lobstering Is Prohibited In The Following Areas:
Artificial Habitats in State Water
Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary (closed only to the harvest of spiny lobster)
Everglades National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

The following no-take areas are marked by 30” diameter round yellow boundary buoys:
• Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPAs)
• Carysfort Reef
• Cheeca Rocks
• Elbow
• Alligator Reef
• Key Largo Dry Rocks
• Coffins Patch
• Grecian Rocks
• Sombrero Key
• French Reef
• Lone Key
• Molasses Reef
• Newfound Harbor
• Conch Reef
• Eastern Dry Rocks
• Hen and Chickens
• Rock Key
• Davis Reef
• Sand Key
• Special Research Only Areas
• Conch Reef
• Looe Key Patch Reef
• Tennessee Reef
• Eastern Sambo
• Ecolouical Reserves
• Western Sambo
• Tortugas (not currently marked, refer to GPS coordinates)

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
All of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is closed during the two day Sport Lobster Season to the harvest of spiny lobster.

During the Regular Lobster Season no person shall harvest any lobster species from or within any coral formation (patch reef).
The following “Pennekamp Lobster Exclusion Zones” are closed during the Regular Lobster Season to the harvest of any lobster species and are marked with white and orange information spar buoys:
• Turtle Rocks
• Basin Hills North
• Basin Hills East
• Basin Hills South
• Higdon’s Reef
• Cannon Patch
• Mosquito Bank North
• Mosquito Bank South East
• Three Sisters North
• Three Sisters South

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