It is a rare reef dive, indeed, that a diver surfaces without spotting a lobster. Spiny Lobster love tropical and subtropical waters, and the reefs off Jupiter teem with the crustaceans.
Their name derives from the spines that protrude from their carapace and provide protection from predators. Often the first sign a lobster is present is one or both of their two long antennae is protruding from a crevice in the reef or from under a ledge. They can vary in color from nearly white to a dark red or orange hue and have two large cream-colored spots on the top of their tail.
Lobsters start life as tiny eggs carried on the abdomen of the female lobster. Once hatched, the current carries the larvae –sometimes thousands of miles--until they are deposited in the shallows, often in seagrass.
Lobster will spend their adolescence close to shore, only migrating to offshore reefs as they near maturity.
Reefs provide lobsters with a safe habitat. They typically forage at night, often waiting a few hours after dark before emerging from their dens and then retreating to their shelters a few hours before sunrise.
Lobster meat is delicious and Florida allows the harvesting of spiny lobster in Open Water between August 6 through March 31st every year. In addition, we also have sport season (locally known as mini-season) is always the last Wednesday and Thursday in July.
So where can you find spiny lobster?
In theory, any reef with nooks crannies, or ledges can be home to lobster, but as any diver knows, it’s location, location, location.
Area 29 is one of the reefs we regularly visit, and there are plenty of lobsters to be found at that location, but during lobster season, we also visit reefs that are less frequented—including 19th Hole and Center Street.
Divers must possess a recreational saltwater fishing license and a lobster permit to legally harvest spiny lobster. Lobster must be brought up to the boat whole (in the event FWC conducts an inspection). There are size requirements, and harvesting an egg-bearing lobster is strictly prohibited.
Many divers harvest lobster either by hand or with the help of a tickle stick. Any device which could puncture or otherwise damage the shell or flesh of the lobster is prohibited. Underwater hunters also need to keep up to date on bag limits. All regulations can be found on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website.
Some divers only dive during lobster season, and if that sounds familiar, there are a couple of things to remember. Make sure your equipment is in good shape and serviced before you hit the water. All the diving off Jupiter is drift diving and you’ll need your own surface marker buoy.
Watch your gauges. In the thrill of the chase, it’s easy to go deeper and stay longer than you intended. And speaking of keeping an eye on things, pay attention to your buddy. Hunting or not, the unexpected can still happen.
Finally, remember to enjoy the dive. Dinner is a bonus!
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