Mini-season is just around the corner... a quick reminder from FWC
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Mini-season is just around the corner... a quick reminder from FWC
For immediate release: July 18, 2012
Contact: Amanda Nalley, 850-410-4943
Spiny lobster seasons begin soon
The 2012 recreational and commercial spiny lobster seasons will open soon, beginning with the two-day spiny lobster recreational season July 25 and 26. The regular commercial and recreational lobster season starts Aug. 6 and runs through March 31.
The special two-day season occurs on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July each year to let recreational fishermen collect spiny lobsters before commercial lobster traps are placed in the water. Commercial fishermen may begin putting their traps in the water Aug. 1, and recreational and commercial fishermen may harvest spiny lobsters starting Aug. 6.
Spiny lobsters must have a carapace length greater than 3 inches to be taken during the open seasons, and divers must possess a measuring device and measure all lobsters in the water.
During the two-day spiny lobster sport season, recreational divers and snorkelers can take up to six lobsters per person daily in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park waters and 12 lobsters per person daily in other Florida waters. You can possess no more than the daily bag limit of lobsters when you are on the water. When you are off the water, you can possess the daily bag limit on the first day and double the daily bag limit on the second day. Possession limits are enforced on and off the water during the two-day sport season.
Night diving for spiny lobsters during the two-day sport season is not allowed in Monroe County, and all harvest of lobsters is prohibited in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park during the two-day season.
Lobster harvest is also prohibited at all times in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary, certain areas in Pennekamp Park, and no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
During the Aug. 6 - March 31 regular season, the daily recreational bag and on-the-water possession limit is six spiny lobsters per person.
You must have a recreational saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit to recreationally harvest spiny lobsters unless you are exempt from recreational license requirements. Information about these licenses and permits is available online at MyFWC.com/License.
Divers and snorkelers must display a “divers-down” flag (red with a white diagonal stripe) while in the water. Divers-down flags displayed on vessels must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches, and a stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. Dive flags carried on floats must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches. Divers must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag on open waters and within 100 feet of a flag within rivers, inlets or navigation channels. The flag must be displayed from the highest point of the vessel and must be visible from all directions. When divers are out of the water, the flag must not be displayed. More information on divers-down flag requirements is available online at MyFWC.com/Boating by clicking on “Boating Regulations.”
Additional information on recreational spiny lobster fishing, including how to measure spiny lobster, is available online at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lobster.”
Mini-season is a frenetic time for the dive boats and shops here in Florida. People, many of whom have not dove in years, are gearing up to get in on the "double limits" available over most of the state. It wouldn't surprise me if there were more hydros and tank inspections done during this month than any two or three combined. In that regard, it's really great for diving and dive businesses.
Unfortunately, these can be the two deadliest days in the year for divers here in Florida. No, it doesn't have to be that way, and so I offer my own tips for survival and encourage others to add their own!
If it's been a year or two since you last dove, PLEASE HIRE A GUIDE (no, I'm not available). They'll help you respect those limits and what's more: they probably know where the bugs are hiding. If it's been more than that, then do a refresher. There is no shame in getting help before you splash. In fact, we'll respect the fact that you are trying to fix the problem even before you create it.
Avoid the Captain Budweiser and Captain Morgan fleets. Drinking and diving just don't mix, and neither do drinking and boating. Your captain is probably the most important safety equipment on the boat. If he's not then please, please find another boat!!! The once or twice a year pilots are quite prone to making errors in judgement and drinking only complicates the problems. We often hear about divers being run over by boats during mini-season and I would love to skip that this year. Insist that your pilot remain free of alcohol while you are out. Also, make sure that they are competent. I avoid most private boats during mini-season.
Respect Dive Flags! Please help your captain spot dive flags as you cruise to and from your dive spot. Florida law requires a boat to exercise extreme caution (steerage) when they are within 300 ft of a dive flag. Divers are required to stay within 100 ft of the flag and they aren't allowed to tie up channels etc. Boats that have divers must display a proper dive flag that is at LEAST 24"x20". If you are going to exceed a 100 range from the boat, divers are required to pull a buoy with a proper dive flag that is at LEAST 12"x12". Safety sausages don't meet these requirements and it's very important that you protect yourself by displaying the proper flags.
Know your limits! Time/depth/air are the three limits that every diver should respect, but they aren't the only ones. Still, it bears repeating that when you find a bug, you should be checking all three and pay especially close attention to your SPG BEFORE you try to snare it. It's too easy to get distracted while trying to get one out of a hole and miss the fact that you are running on empty.
Know your limits part two. Know your training, experience and physical limits and respect them. There's no bug worth endangering your life over. This is not the time to set a new depth record or to push your limits in any way. It's not the time to take up solo diving or to try to swim in conditions you have never seen before like hard currents etc. Be sure that you can concentrate on hunting without having to be distracted with new techniques and gear. If you're feeling task loaded at all, it's time to rethink and change something before you get hurt!
Know your limits part three. Be sure to have a lobster gauge and don't forget to use it. I secure mine near the opening of my catch bag, so I can easily measure it before it goes in. Check for eggs while you're at it and take a moment to reset your breathing to normal rates. Remember there are a few areas in Florida (like Monroe County) where the limits are not increased for mini-season. Do your homework before you splash and make your interactions with FWC merely pleasant ones.
Slow down, analyse and think! Most problems can be avoided if you only slow down (or stop), look the situation over carefully and think things through before you take any action. Use check lists and check them twice. While you're at it, check your buddy too, and make sure that he's checking you too. Like I wrote previously, this really isn't the time to begin diving solo, especially if you're an infrequent diver. A few moments of reflection could prevent a life time of agony. Always err on the side of caution.
Remember your diving is all about having FUN. If it's not fun, then something is wrong and needs to be changed. You can be sure that we don't want to be reading about you or your friends in our accidents and incidents forum. DIVE SAFETY IS NO ACCIDENT!
Last edited by NetDoc; July 19th, 2012 at 09:50 AM.
To add to this comment, if using a snare, you almost don't need to touch the reef at all.
If you haven't put out the cashola for a snare: please do. You'll do less damage to the bug which is important if it's too small or is carrying eggs. Also, you can completely avoid doing any damage to the reef. Yeah, I get that it's macho to go out with a tickle stick, a net and perhaps a mop, but welcome to the 21st Century.
I can't say enough about the auto snare with the internal band and button. Expensive, yes, worth it, yes,.See a lobster, put the snare behind him, wave at him, when he backs up, push the button and pin him down. Amazing.
Just a reminder, you have to have a gauge with you in the water or you can get a ticket. What happens when you have that limit of legal lobsters in your bag and you realize you've lost your gauge. Carry a spare. I had a very nervous exit on a beach dive when I lost mine.