Florida Keys Lobster Diving: Bring Lots of Butter

Updated on August 16, 2022

Florida Keys Lobstering

The Florida Keys are a big part of the reason that Florida is known as the "Fishing Capital of the World.”

This time of year makes the Keys an especially unique destination. Every year, on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July, Florida lobster “mini” sport season opens up. For these two days, thousands of locals and visitors flood to the southernmost parts of the state to get in on the recreational lobster action before the opening day of commercial season, which starts on August 6th 2022 and runs through the end of March, 2023.

The water surrounding the Keys is warm, calm, and clear around this time. Starting at the end of July, Caribbean Spiny Lobster can be found underneath almost every rock and ledge in shallow, hard bottom areas which are typically only three to six feet deep.

These shallow waters make lobster diving in the keys some of the best in the world. First-time and veteran divers can both take advantage of the mini season. The bag limit during the short lobster season is 6 lobsters per person per day.

According to Captain John out of Key West, it’s pretty standard on the first Wednesday of the mini season for trips to begin at 8 am, and everyone on the boat has caught their limit by around 9:30 am. After August, lobster can become difficult to find due to the gold rush of divers, but it’s still possible throughout the regular season with a good guide and a lot of perseverance.

Not only are they a blast and easy to catch, but they're also delicious to eat. To make matters even better, some Florida guides offer inshore fishing on top of lobster-diving—all in one trip. On these trips, anglers also have the opportunity to hook up with popular inshore species such as redfish, snook, and mangrove snapper, all of which are a blast to catch on light tackle.

Captain John’s Rare Catch

During the mini season this year on July 27th and 28th, Captain John went out with a family he has guided in Key West for over 20 years. While the 48 hour season was unsurprisingly pretty crowded with numerous boats covering the same territory, there was no shortage of lobster.

After 35 years of guiding down in the Keys and hundreds of lobster trips, the college-aged daughter in the family on his boat brought up a lobster unlike anything he’d ever come across—an albino lobster. John joked, “thought about keeping it as a pet, but figured it’d taste too good.”

Albino Lobster Caught With Captain John

Standard Caribbean Spiny Lobster Appearance

Unlike the lobster Captain John's crew pulled up, Caribbean spiny lobsters generally have a red to brown shell and a few dark spots. These lobsters also typically have two large off-white spots on the second segment of their tail. The shell of the Caribbean spiny lobster is covered in pointed spines that slope forward, giving them their name.

It takes these lobsters about two years to grow to the three inch carapace minimum size requirement for legal harvest. To measure a lobster, the gauge should be placed between the eyes and pushed back until it stops. The measurement goes from the point between the eyes toward the tail of the lobster along the carapace or body shell. The measurement has to take place in the water.

If you’re planning on booking a lobster trip, be sure to bring lots of butter. If you’re interested in booking a trip with Captain John, check out his trip listings here, here, here, and here.

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