Break out the cracking devices, drawn butter and mustard sauce! Fresh stone crabs are on the menu and in the market in the Florida Keys– despite Hurricane Irma’s September onslaught. And …
Catch the Bug While You Can!
Divers and snorkelers have just over three weeks to catch lobster before the Florida harvest season closes on April 1. They won’t get another chance to bag a limit of bugs until the annual mini-season July 26-27.
Here to help you load the barbecue grill (and maybe even the freezer) is Captain Joe Mastrangelo– retired U.S. Navy SEAL, scuba instructor, and bug catcher extraordinaire at Captain Slate’s Scuba Adventures Dive Center, a Guy Harvey Outpost Outfitter near Islamorada.
“Be patient. It’s hit or miss. Plan on spending the whole day. You might nail them in the first ten minutes or you might spend four hours in the water,” Mastrangelo advised. “It’s called hunting.”
This time of year, the dive guide says, the crustaceans could be anywhere in the Keys — from 12-to-15-foot-deep patch reefs in Hawk Channel all the way out to 70 feet deep on the main reef tract. They could be clustered beneath a single coral head or spread out in sandy depressions surrounded by sea grass beds.
“They don’t really stay put; they move,” Mastrangelo said. “I’ve been to caverns in 20 feet of water with 10, 12, 15 of them in there. Go back in a week and they’re all gone.”
The good news for late-winter lobster hunters: waters clarity tends to be better than in the heat of summer and there’s less competition from other divers and commercial trappers. Many commercial fishers in the Keys concentrate on stone crabs rather than lobster this time of year.
Mastrangelo’s tools of the trade are a five-foot-long tickle stick and a small hand net with a thin frame. He’ll show you how to tap-tap-tap a lobster gently on the tail to coax it out of its lair far enough to slap the net over it and then transfer it to your catch bag.
You’ll need a Florida saltwater fishing license with a lobster endorsement, and you need to know the rules and regulations of lobster catching. You can find all this information HERE.
To book a lobster diving charter with Capt. Slate, call 305-451-3020. To book your stay at the Islander Resort, a Guy Harvey Outpost in Islamorada, GO HERE!