Chasing Lobster in the Florida Keys is 100% Fun!
Lobster season in the Florida Keys is a ritual
for many people. Summertime means warm waters means diving for bugs
The season kicks off with the two day sport lobster dive. It’s always the last Wednesday and Thursday in July. People come from all over the place to partake in this yearly event. The majority come from Florida. This is a two-day event. It begins one hour before sunrise and ends one hour after sunset each of the two days. No night diving.
You’ll need to get a special stamp along with your Florida Saltwater Fishing License and a copy of the regulations.
The equipment you’ll need for this is a dive flag, net, tickle stick, measuring device, a catch bag and a real tough pair of gloves. It goes without saying you’ll need a mask, fins and snorkel. Now some folks do scuba dive for these bugs, but come on it’s so easy to catch them, that’s cheating. Unless you’re out on the reef in deep water.
It’s always puzzled me that all these people from the other places in Florida come here for this. The bag limit in Monroe County is 6 per person per day. The bag limit everywhere else in Florida is 12 per person per day. And I know for a fact that the lobster off West Palm and that area are very large. A regular bug will weight in the 18 pound range. I used to live and dive there.
As I am a licensed U.S.C.G. Captain, I usually have a charter for this event. And we always have two to three boats in our group. It's ultimately up to me to make sure everyone has their limit.
I begin the hunt long before the season opens. I need to know where the lobsters are and that the numbers are good. I’ve notices in the last four years that my best diving spot is not holding as many as it did in the past. I mean a big decrease in the numbers. I’ve also found some places that weren’t very good are now great. So I really have to get out and prospect each year.
We leave before dawn. As do lots of other brave soles. It’s like a race. I bet every one of us is thinking the other boat is headed for his spot. I know this is what I’m thinking. You do hope to be the first one to the dive spot you’ve selected. If you get there first, it’s yours. It’s not cool to try and dive on another person’s dive spot when they’re still there diving. This is just common courtesy. Kinda like an unwritten rule.
We’re in the water before sunrise. What a beautiful and different place at this hour. The fish are just waking up. You need to be extra careful with getting the first ones out, it’s still a bit on the dim side and they’ll creep out and escape when you’re putting the other one in your catch bag. They have the advantage here.
When I look up out of the water, it’s scary how many boats are around us. It looks like a city in the distance with all the boats anchored one after the other.
As the morning goes on most of the would be lobster divers are tired and a bit frustrated. They meander back to the boats. They’re hungry and have tales to tell. You know, the one that got away.
I’m still at it in the water. I need to get a count. One person is assigned this job. We need to be careful not to get more than our limit.
Back down I go. Sometimes it takes me three or four hours straight free diving to assure everyone is happy at the end of the day. My hands are full of cuts and puncture wounds from all the sharp spines on the Florida Spiny Lobster. The horns go right thru the gloves.
When we’ve taken our limit we usually stay out the rest of the day. You’re already out here why not enjoy just being on the water. It’s too hot to go to the dock anyway. Who wants to stand out there in the hot sun and wring the lobster? You can do this when the sun is lower in the sky and the day is cooler.
Some how seafood seems to taste better when you go catch it yourself. This isn’t to say there is anything wrong with the taste of seafood in our restaurants. I love eating out. I just enjoy catching my own seafood.
To wring the lobster you just twist the body and tail in opposite directions a few times then pull. There’s not much meat in the head so I feed them to the fish. I use the antenna to get the vein out of the center at the tail.
My favorite way to prepare lobster is to cut them totally in half. Cut through the shell on top and bottom and then cut the meat in half. I put them on a cookie sheet that’s lined with aluminum foil. I place the cut half’s of lobster meat side down on the foil and shell side up. You’ll need to have the oven set to Broil, do this ahead of time. Cook the lobster for 8 to 12 minutes. This all depends on how many you have on the cookie sheet. If it’s loaded, cook a couple of minutes longer.
This method for cooking lobster was told to me by my friend Gene Paxton who has been here since the 50's. And I got to tell you this keeps the meat really sweet and juicy. If you boil them, you lose all the flavor in the water. If you grill them, you’re probably going to dry them out. If you do grill them be sure to put butter or oil on the meat so it gets inside between the meat and shell. This keeps the meat from sticking to the shell. Grill them shell side to the fire.
To get them out of the shell all you need do is use a fork, stick it in the meat that’s sticking out of the shell and pull it away from the shell. It should come out easy.
I like to dip the tasty morsels in melted butter that has lots of fresh garlic in it.
Sport lobster season in the Florida Keys is really a fun event and your reward is getting to eat them. Enjoy!
Return from Lobster to Dive and Snorkel
Return from Lobster to N The Florida Keys