Catching spiny lobster in south Florida is a very fun and popular activity. Most of the time when I see tourist visiting the Florida Keys they do not explore much on there own. After spending hours watching every fish swim by a great fishing spot, I see people get out their car walk, walk a short distance, take a picture and they are back on their way in a few minutes. This is not the case during mini lobster season or when people are catching lobster during the main season in Florida. It is actually quite the opposite. Murky shark infested water with strong current and people are jumping in without hesitation to try and catch that delicious lobster.
There are two main recreational ways to catch lobster. Method one is to free dive or scuba dive and catching lobster with small nets during the day. The second method is by using bully nets and scooping lobster from shallow water during the night. In Florida there is a mini two day season in late August that is only open to recreational lobster caching. About 10 days later the commercial lobster season opens for lobster boats to set lobster pots to catch lobster. This season lasts for about 8 months from early August to the end of March. People can still divers and use bully nets to catch lobster during the regular lobster season as well. Below I will discuss the basic methods used to catch lobster. Hopefully this helps you catch more lobster next time you are in Florida.
Diving For Lobster
Lobster can be caught with a tickle stick and a net. This is typically done while diving on reefs on the Atlantic ocean or diving wrecks and structure in the Gulf of Mexico side of the Florida Keys. When diving near coral make sure not to touch or bump into the coral. Do not damage coral to catch a lobster, it is not worth it.
The basic strategy to catch lobster is to use a tickle stick to scare them out of a hole or ledge they are hiding in. Then slightly distract the lobster while slowly putting the net behind the lobster. Then scare the lobster back and it will go right into the net. To not try and scoop the lobster from the front. Lobster can swim backward very cast and you will not catch lobster this way.
This is the most common lobster kit and comes with a net, tickle stick, measuring gauge, gloves and a mesh bag for holding the lobster.
This is very similar to the lobster kit above. It comes with different gloves and a back net.
Green Lobster Snare that is 24 inches long. This works buy placing the cable around the lobster and pulling the top of the handle back and the wire tightens around the lobster. This snare also locks and releases with a button. If done incorrectly this can hurt the lobster, which is bad if the lobster is short or has eggs and has to be released. Using a net is the preferred way to catch lobster while diving.
Bully Netting for Lobster
Bulling netting lobster is done at night. Lobster are nocturnal so the come out from hiding at night. When bully netting lobster are typically found in the flats which are shallow areas of turtle grass one to four feet deep. You can also walk the flats searching for lobster but this can be difficult to not spook the lobster before you can catch it. Typically bully netting is done from a small boat with bright lights.
Bully nets are only six feet long so the water must be shallow. To catch a lobster first find it, slowly place the net a few feet above the lobster. Then quickly place the net over the lobster. Pull the net sideways for about two feet to sweep the lobster into the netting and then bring the net up. Small boats that have commercial permits and know where the lobster are can catch over 100 lobster in a night.
This is a 6 foot bully net with a 36 inch net circumference. The metal ring on the net comes parallel to the handle. The ring should be bent 90 degrees to be perpendicular to the handle. This makes it so ring lays flat on the ground when bringing the net down toward the lobster.
Underwater dive flashlight that is 400 to 900 lumens. Run time 20 to 5.8 hours respectfully. This light comes with a rechargeable battery back!
Lobster gauge and attachment for a underwater dive flashlight. Gauge has a 3 inch and a 3 1/4 inch lobster measuring slot.
LED 20 inch light bar can be attached to the boat to provide light to search for spiny lobster at night.
Two 6.5 inch 36 watts led lights for mounting on boats as lobster lights.
Submersible underwater light to help find lobster. Comes with battery clips and attachment to power light from a cigarette outlet plug.
Hoop Nets For Lobster
In California hoop netting for lobster is popular. A hoop net is placed in the water with bait. When a lobster comes for the bait the net is pulled up trapping the lobster. This is done at night time from small boats.
Lobster hoop net with rope. Double rings net with an outside diameter of 23.6 inches.
Metal bait cage and hoop net float kit. Using a bait cage is a popular way to set bait in traps and hoop nets.
Lobster pots can be made from metal or wood. Must pots are custom made to local specifications. For wooden pots weight such as metal or concrete is used to sink the pot. Lobster pots in Florida can only be used by boats with lobster permits for the boat and for each lobster pot. New pots are not typically sold to the public because they are built by commercial lobster fishermen. Here is some of the basic gear people use to place lobster pots.
Metal mesh lobster pots or wooden lobster pots are used to commercially fish for spiny lobster. Pots are set in the ocean and are checked and re-baited at least once a week. Some boats check the pots everyday.
An 11 inch or 14 inch float is used to mark where the lobster pot is located. Each company also numbers each buoy marker.
A rope is used to attach the lobster pot to the float above.
A lobster line weight should be used if the line length is not very close to the depth of the lobster pot. Placing the weight on the line makes it so any slack in the line is not laying on top of the water where it will be more likely be caught in or cut by a boat prop. During lobster season there a crab floats everywhere on the reef and nearshore where there is lots of boat traffic. Having a weight on the line if very important because boats frequently pass very close to the lobster pot floats.
Using a lead core line attached to the float also helps prevent the line from laying on the surface of the water.
By Hand with Lobster Gauge
When diving you can catch lobster by hand without any gear and bring them back to the boat or shore. A gauge is still needed and required by law to make sure the lobster is a legal size to keep. In Florida the lobster carapace must measure 3 inches. In California the lobster carapace must measure 3 1/4 inches long. Make sure you check the regulations in the area being fishing. Lobster are measures from the eye socket to the end of the carapace which is the end of the hard body where the tail begins.
Its is illegal to keep a lobster that has eggs. Lots of lobsters have eggs. To check look under the tail. The bottom of the tail will be covered in dark brown eggs if it has them. Make sure to measure lobster and check for eggs before bringing the lobster into the boat if you are scuba diving or snorkeling.
Metal lobster gauge for measuring lobster. Metal gauges a better then plastic gauges because they stay true over time.
A lobster bag consists of a galvanized wire handle with a d-ring and mesh storage area.
When free diving mask snorkel and fins should be worn. See the how to snorkel page for more information. A dive belt and weights can also be worn to make diving easier if you are and experienced diver or are wearing a wetsuit.
Thanks for visiting Global Fishing Reports. I hope these suggestions help you catch more lobster!
If you have any suggestions for the best way to catch spiny lobster, leave a comment below!