The Florida Keys is a paradise when it comes to the Spiny Lobster. Both the Gulf side and the ocean side hold numerous haunts of lobster filled areas that are easily accessible to both snorkeler and diver alike. In the gulf one needs to simply look for the bare spots formed by limestone “holes” and drop someone in to have a look see for the tell tale antennae tips or actually see the lobsters hiding under a ledge or stuffed in a hole or a piece of debris deposited by storms or old wrecks. These places are all great areas to look for lobster and their locations are not a secret when you have a GPS device onboard. These locations have GPS numbers attached to them and these numbers are the key to those who have and those who have not. Even having great numbers does not guarantee the spot will not have been plundered as many spots are shared and numbers get traded, transferred, and yes even stolen. These places are found by accident or are simply passed down year after year by the ones who limit out every year. They are a select group who literally yawn there way their Mini Season with overloaded coolers and limits by noon. We all know groups like this. This does not come accidentally and is rather a direct result of hard work, pre-season or by having a series of numbers that consistently hold large numbers of lobsters.
There are three kinds of lobster seekers I have noticed. Those who get a few, those who catch “some” and those who “slammed em”. If you are in the last group then you obviously do not need to read anything more from here. But if you are in the first two groups (and you knew where you fall into here) then please read on.
I have been in the Keys for over 25 years and have dove and snorkeled for lobster every year with awesome results. As a fisherman and hunter it came easy as in lobstering there is equal amounts of both here. First you have to hunt the spots that hold lobster then once you find them they have to be taken (fished out of their hiding spots). This involves being able to hold your breath and perform a host of tasks that result in legal lobster being taken topside to a waiting cooler. It is a practiced art and saying this means very few people can go to the Keys and rent a set of fins and a mask and go blindly into the Ocean or the Bay and get a limit of lobsters. It has happened but do not bet your gas money on it happening often.
Look for lighter lime greenish areas that stand out of the normal grass colored darker bottoms. These lime colored areas are usually sand circled lobster hide out of limestone or coral formations that attract and hold lobsters. Also, get a few beers in some local people and ask for only one number. Most locals want you to succeed but will not give away the farm so does not even ask. Be honest and tell them you usually do not do very well but you love it and if they had a spot to give you it would be held confidentially. Most locals have HUNDREDS of spots they can go. It is about how you ask more than whom you ask.
Instead here are some proven tips for those of you who want and in some cases, need to do better.Be sure you have a marker jug with at least 12 feet of twine and a heavy weight attached to it. When looking for lobster holes throw it at anything that look suspicious to mark the spot. In the Bay the water is rarely over 12 feet deep in good lobster habitat and if you are snorkeling it is where you can operate best. Any deeper and you should consider a hookah rig or a tank of air. Many times the spots are small and with tides running in the Bay the boat can drift off a spot in no time at all and then all of a sudden that lobster looking spot is simply “gone”. It even happened to me until I learned it pays to have a marker jug person on the boat that has the job of throwing the jug in the area where someone sees a likely looking spot.
Secondly, when looking for lobsters in the area of your marker drop in away from the area and approach slowly without a cannon ball off the bow. Too many times the spot gets silted up and then it reduces the visibility and the lobsters there sense a threat and back into he farthest reaches of their hideouts making it far more difficult. Also, drop in with a spear gun and most lobster hideouts have a resident grouper who hovers nearby and over the hole. A soft entry insures filets with your tails at days end. Splash down like a space capsule and you will never see that grouper. If lobster are present SLOWLY start taking them one by one and do it in an unhurried pace. Thrashing around with a stick in the hole will spook the lobsters into leaving where they disappear easily into the deep grasses that surround the holes. Tickle sticks are meant to tickle them out of the holes not thrash them to within an inch of their lives. You should softly touch the undersides of the lobster to get him out into the open where you can put your net behind him and then tap the front area of the lobster so he shoots in the net waiting behind him. They swim in reverse you know.
ONCE IN THE NET TWIST IT SO IT SEALS ITSELF SHUT THEN SLOWLY SWING IT TO THE BOAST WHERE THE BOAT HELPER TAKES THE NET AND ALL THEN TAKES THE LOBSTER OUT OF THE NET.I CAPITALIZED THIS BECAUSE IT IS THE NUMBER ONE REASON LOBSTERS GET AWAY.
The transfer from the net to the boat person is not needed. Simply hand the lobster getter a new net and take the one he has the lobster inside. Measure it to be sure it is legal and if it is them stash it and if it is not return it to the water immediately. Game enforcement does not mess around with short lobster takers and fines are awful ways to ruin a mini season. Do not do anything illegal, as the fines do not even come close to the risk.