A group of marine scientists sits before a computer screen in an air-conditioned command center in Fort Pierce, watching intently as a robot plucks a sea sponge from deep on the ocean floor that just might …
Get Your Bugs on for Florida’s Mini-Season
Divers: start rehearsing your cough-and-call routine. You will need to execute a flawless performance to avoid getting fired for skipping work July 26 and 27– Florida’s largest undeclared statewide holiday.
In less than 24 hours, the annual two-day lobster mini-season will open allowing divers, snorkelers and bully netters to harvest their limit in advance of the commercial trapping season Aug. 6. Thousands are expected to take the plunge in the Atlantic and Gulf as well as various bays, canals, and estuaries.
The epicenter of the hunt takes place in the Keys, where you may take six lobsters per person per day. Everywhere else in Florida (except Biscayne National Park), the daily bag limit is 12.
Lobsters must measure greater than three inches on the carapace or head, and they must be measured in the water– not on land or in the boat. You can buy a gauge at any dive shop, And lobsters must be landed whole–not with tails wrung.
You must have a Florida saltwater fishing license with a lobster endorsement. You may not take egg-bearing females or use a spear. Permissible gear includes a net, tickler stick or “bugger”, and a catch bag. For a complete rundown of mini-season rules, go to www.myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/lobster/.
According to Captain Jeff Torode, operator of South Florida Diving Headquarters, a Guy Harvey Outpost Outfitter in Pompano Beach, there are plenty of lobsters around.
“I think it’ll probably be a good season again,” Torode said.
He will be awarding a $400 Sherwood dive computer to the hunters who catch the biggest bugs on his two 6 a.m. dive boats on July 26, His shop will also conduct lobster dives at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. On July 27, customers can chase lobsters at 6 a.m., 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. To reserve a spot, go to www.southfloridadiving.com or call 800-771-DIVE.
Bug catchers are invited to stick around for Bugfest-By-The-Sea July 25-29 –the annual mini-season hunting contest, cooking competition, concert and fundraiser hosted by the town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. For more information, go to www.lbtsevents.com.
If you plan on diving or bully netting in the Keys, stop by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s information booth in front of Divers Direct at Key Largo’s Waldorf Plaza, milemarker 100 oceanside, U.S. 1. From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through July 26, FWC personnel will answer all your lobster questions and show you the correct way to measure them.
Book your bug expedition with Capt. Slate’s Scuba Adventures, a Guy Harvey Outpost Outfitter in Islamorada. Slate will conduct two lobster dives daily July 26 and 27 at 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Visit www.captainslate.com or call 305-451-3020. If you need a room for mini-season, reserve at the Islander Resort, a Guy Harvey Outpost in Islamorada. Call 800-513-5257.