By Becky Collins


 Previously known as “mini-season,” the name was changed because of the mistaken belief that undersized lobster could be taken at that time. The two-day sport season is always the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July, this year falling on July 27th and 28th. Visitors will come from all over Florida and beyond in order to harvest the first lobsters of the season, before commercial lobster traps are set out. It is important to know the rules and regulations created to ensure lobsters for years to come. Law enforcement will be present in greater numbers than usual to guarantee that lobster harvesting is done safely and legally.

There are many differences in the regulations between the two-day sport season and the regular lobster season. One of the most important things to know before you head out to harvest is where you can legally do so. During the sport season, state park waters are closed to harvest. For those lobestering in the Upper Keys, this includes the waters of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. On August 6th, regular lobster season opens and lobster harvest is allowed within Pennekamp’s boundaries. In Pennekamp waters, lobsters may not be taken from inside or around living coral heads, as this may damage the living coral. There are also eight lobster exclusion zones inside the park’s waters that are closed year round. These lobster zones are not marked on any commercial nautical charts. To help boaters locate these lobster exclusion areas, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park has created an interactive map showing these areas. To locate this map, visit floridastateparks.org/park/pennekamp. In the middle of the home page is the link to the nautical map. This map is also helpful to locate the no-motor zone areas, as well as mooring buoys at popular snorkeling and fishing spots.

Have more questions about lobster regulations? The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission and Florida State Park personnel will be operating a lobster information booth before season starts. This booth will be located at mile marker 99.6 in front of the Divers Direct store. Knowledgeable staff will be on hand from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 23rd, through Tuesday, July 26th, to answer any questions you may have regarding this year’s lobster harvest.

Remember, state park waters are closed for lobstering during the lobster sport season, but there may be other regulations for your favorite spot. Know before you go. Download the current lobster regulations brochure by visiting myfwc.com and floridastateparks.org/park-documents/pennekamp/brochure. You can also pick up printed brochures at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

Becky Collins is a park ranger at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park