Where to find Lobster in the Florida Keys

A spiney lobster out in the open

A lot of people know where to find lobster in the Keys. There are GPS coordinates listed on the internet. These places are crowded and picked over. In this article you’ll learn how to find the places people don’t know about.

Florida Lobster Season

Lobster season closes April 1, 2017 and opens August 6, 2017. The recreational sport season is July 26 and 27 of 2017. Florida lobstering is easier in the sport season and early in the regular season. It gets harder to find lobster as the season progresses.

Known places to catch Florida lobster

The three areas I covered for spearfishing also apply to lobstering. A common way to find lobster spots that aren’t heavily exploited is to tow a snorkeler behind a boat. This requires at least three people. One to handle the wheel, the spotter who is being towed, and one in the stern to constantly keep an eye on the spotter, and make sure the line doesn’t get tangled in the prop. He will yell when the spotter signals he’s found something and make sure the spotter isn’t getting in trouble.

A Florida Lobster
This lobster is poised to shoot back into his cave.

The spotter isn’t trying to spot lobster. He’s looking for structure that lobster might hide in. The farther away it’s from other hiding places the more likely there will be lobster and the less likely anyone will know about it. Record the GPS coordinates and it’s yours forever. It’s fun being the spotter. We discourage guests from asking for a turn by calling the method “trolling for sharks.”

Little known places to catch Florida lobster

Lobsters are heavily pursued in the Keys. Finding them where other people don’t look takes more effort, but can result in a hefty catch. Below we put you on track to find those unknown places.

The edges of grass flats

Bully netting is a popular way to catch lobster at night. This is done on shallow grass flats. The lobsters leave their day time home to roam the flats searching for food. Strong lights are used to pick out the glint of their eyes and find them. A special long handled bully net is used to lay flat on the ground around the lobster. He’s then spooked into the net. But where are these lobster during the day?

Florida lobsters hiding under a ledge.
Lobsters hiding under a ledge.

They’re usually in holes on the edge of the flat. Any trough or drop off in or around a turtle grass flat may contain holes with lobsters residing. This can be in surprisingly shallow water. I’ve caught a lot of legal lobster in water I could stand up in. The best flats for this are in the back country. There are excellent places that nobody ever goes to. One reason is they’re hard to reach. Another is that there’s no structure, and third, they’re so shallow that people don’t suspect lobster are there.

There’s usually only one lobster per hole. The holes can be difficult to find as they’re often partially covered by turtle grass. Tickling the lobster out may work, but these lobster are quicker than most to shoot back into the hole. There’s a reason for this. A lot of the time the hole has a back exit. This is nearly always on top of the flat, well disguised with grass. It pays to have a partner on the flat watching for them. Sometimes the hole can be spotted before chasing the lobster out. Placing a net over it will result in a lobster darting into it.

The best spots often have currents ripping through them. Time it were the current is reasonably slack. I have scars on my feet from fighting the current with only socks under my fins. We were having so much fun and catching so many lobster that I couldn’t stop. I hope you have as much fun, but without the scars.

Under the mangroves

This is the least enjoyable way to catch lobster I know, but it can be productive. Some mangrove islands have an edge undercut by a current. This cut is often deep enough that you can swim under the mangroves. It’s dark and miserable under there, and the lobster love it.

A spiney lobster being tickled out and caught in a net.
Mike tickles out a lobster and catches it in a net.

You need a little current to swim into. Your fins will kick up a lot of muck. If the current doesn’t carry it away, visibility drops to zero. The lobster are in holes on the side and over your head. Tickling them out doesn’t work because there’s usually a drop before they’re on the bottom. They don’t float down to the bottom. They dart away. A tool I use here is a bent spear shaft or any similarly shaped stiff stick. I try to poke this into the hole behind the lobster blocking him from retreating deep into his hiding place. I then grab him with a gloved hand. If he does go deeper, I shove my arm way into the hole and get him. Moray eels are rare in the mangroves so I’ve always gotten away with it, but it isn’t the most enjoyable or safest way to get dinner.

So now you know what others don’t. Well, as long as they haven’t read this article. Good hunting and be safe.

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