Spiny lobster season is upon us, but before commercial fishermen go out in droves to collect the endemic crustaceans, recreational divers have two days of open waters and rock lobsters all to themselves. The mini lobster season is an annual, two-day period that always falls on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July. This year, Florida Keys Mini Lobster Season 2023 will be held July 26 - 27.
The two-day frenzy draws lots of out-of-towners looking to get in on the action. If everyone plays by the rules applicable to Monroe County, the lobster mini season can be enjoyed by everyone. Here are the Florida Keys Mini Lobster Season rules to follow, which are strictly enforced in and out of the water, plus we answer some of your commonly asked questions. Play fair and happy hunting!
When is Mini Lobster Season in the Keys?
The dates change every year, but the two-day period is always on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July. This year, Florida mini lobster season is July 26 - 27, 2023.
Why is there a Mini Lobster Season in Florida?
The two-day season was established in 1974 as a way for sports fishermen to get a head start on lobster fishing before the big commercial boats do.
How many lobsters can you catch during Florida Mini Lobster Season?
There is a 6-lobster maximum per person, per day (24-hour period).
Can you catch lobster in Key West?
Yes! Although, there are some forbidden zones (read more on that below).
Are Florida lobsters good to eat?
Absolutely. Often called “sea crawfish,” spiny lobster aren’t far off from the taste of crawfish - and they are just as versatile. Check out where to get the best lobster dishes in Key West for local dishes made with both Maine and spiny lobster.
What do Florida lobsters taste like?
Unlike their Maine cousins to the north, spiny lobster has almost exclusively tail meat, which has a medium sweetness and firm texture. The meat tastes great in almost everything, from omelets to lobster rolls.
How do you cook a Florida lobster?
Grilled, baked, boiled, steamed - there is no wrong way! For meal ideas, check out Keys Treasures’ compilation of tried-and-true spiny lobster recipes, from Crab-Stuffed FL Lobster to Sweet Cream Butter Broiled FL Spiny Lobster Tails and FL Spiny Lobster Bisque.
Now, let’s get into the dos and don’ts of FL Keys Mini Lobster Season 2023:
Florida Keys Mini Lobster Season Rules
-Have your recreational saltwater fishing license on you at all times, with the required spiny lobster tag.
-Have a measuring device on you at all times. Spiny lobsters must have a carapace (the armor-like upper shell from eyes to start of tail) larger than 3 inches. If you’re confused about what this is, where it is, or how to measure it, refer to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regulations.
-Measure the lobster in the water.
-Keep the lobster intact, from catch to shore arrival.
-Enjoy a six lobster maximum per person, per day.
-Have a visible “divers-down” flag that is 20” x 24” and stay within 300 feet of it in open water.
-Catch six spiny lobsters and go out on the same day for six more.
-Keep female lobsters with eggs under the tail. Female lobsters with eggs must be released.
-Use traps, spears, or spear guns. It’s prohibited to catch a spiny lobster with any device that could damage or puncture its shell.
-Remove the tail before docking. Lobsters must be caught and landed in one piece.
-Harvest lobsters in the Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary, Dry Tortugas National Park, or the no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. See other prohibited areas on the FWC list.
-Dive at night. “Night” is defined as one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise.
For more information about spiny lobster harvesting and associated regulations, visit the FWC website.
Finally, the official Florida lobster season 2023 opens at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 6, 2023 and runs eight sunny months through midnight March 31, 2024. Book your regular season lobster charter ahead of time, of which the island offers many with fishermen versed in the art of “tickling” spiny lobsters into small nets.
Book Direct with 24 North Hotel in Key West
24 North Hotel is located in New Town, Key West, close to some of the best fishing charters on the island. Ask us about parking your boat trailers! After a long day on the water, enjoy a bevy of on-site dining and drinking options, shuttle service to Old Town, and a host of exceptional amenities, plus breathtaking sunset views over the Gulf of Mexico from your Premium Ocean View Room.
See which of our special offers works for you.