How To Catch Lobster In The Florida Keys Without Scuba Tanks [Video]

By: Luke Simonds on July 28, 2016
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how to catch spiny lobster

It’s Spiny Lobster Time!!!

I am about to teach you some lobster catching tips that I wish someone had taught me the very first time I went lobstering.

And I would like to think these “How To Catch Lobster” tips will save you a lot of time and energy (not to mention frustration), and it should help you enjoy the Florida lobster season even more.

Because for those who you that know how to catch lobster in the Florida Keys, the opening of lobster season (both mini and then the full season) can be an incredibly FUN & DELICIOUS event…

The reason the Florida lobster season is so cherished is because lobster diving in the Keys is amazing on so many fronts:

  • Warm clear water
  • Great exercise
  • Fun family time
  • Delicious feast
  • You don’t have to dive that deep to get lobster (so scuba isn’t required)

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And for anyone who has even been down in the Florida Keys during mini-season (which is a 2 day opening only for recreational snorkelers and divers on the last Wed and Thursday of July), you’ve seen the loads of lobster seekers jamming up US 1 from north of Key Largo all the way to Key West.

Since lobster season has recently opened, I thought a how to catch FL lobster article would be timely for anyone considering a trip down to the Keys…

Check out all of my best lobster tips below:

Florida Keys Lobster

First of all, the type of lobster most common in the Keys is called Spiny Lobster.

They are not like their northern cousins with the big claws.

The lobster in the Keys just have two antennae up front and a bunch of sharp points along their body so the only harm they can do to you is poke holes in your hands… make sure you wear thick gloves whenever handling them.

spiny lobster picture

Lobster in the Keys are often found in less than 10 ft of water, so using a tank is not required.

I’ll focus this article on snorkeling for lobster, but the catching technique, of course, will apply to those who prefer to use tanks too.

How to Find Lobster in the Keys

Lobster hide under any sort of structure on the bottom they can find… rock ledges, coral heads, thick vegetation, and any other form of cover on the bottom can make a great holding spot for lobster.

lobster under rock picture

One of the more popular ways to find good lobster spots is to drag a diver or two behind the boat with 20 ft ropes attached to each side of the boat. This will allow the divers to scan the bottom for structure without spending a lot of swimming energy (the boat does all the work).

Once a diver sees a good spot, he/she will then let go of the line and assess the spot to make sure there are good sized lobster… if so, then time to anchor the boat so others can get in to partake in the lobster catching.

If not, continue dragging until a better spot is found.

Note: If you don’t have any GPS coordinates for lobster holes, it could be smart to start your search near a pass that has a good amount of current flow because that area will have the highest concentration of ledges (both rock and grass ledges will hold lobster)… just make sure to be very careful to respect the current because it can be hazardous for a novice diver.

How to Catch Spiny Lobster While Snorkeling

how to catch spiny lobster in florida

First and foremost, the key to catching lobster while snorkeling is to RELAX.

As soon as you find yourself short of breath or your heart is beating heavily, just stay on the surface until your breathing and heartbeat is normalized before going back down.

There are 2 reasons why simply being relaxed is important when snorkeling for lobster:

1) Longer Breath Hold:

Being relaxed will slow down your heartbeat, which will slow down the rate your body burns through oxygen allowing you to stay underwater longer.

2) Catch More Lobster:

A controlled approach to a ledge with a bunch of lobster is essential if you’d like to catch as many as possible from the one spot. The worst thing you could possibly do to a good spot is to jam a tickle stick into the hole and shake it violently until a lobster shoots out… because one will take off fast and others will likely do the same in all different directions so it’ll be tough to find them all.

Here’s a video that shows how to best approach a ledge with multiple lobster:

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As you saw, it’s best to catch them one at a time and work from the outside edge first. And a controlled approach throughout the process ensures that the others don’t get spooked out of the ledge nor wedge themselves into the furthest cracks where they’re near impossible to reach.

When the outside lobster were caught, the others will simply stay in their place until it was their turn… as long as they don’t get spooked.

Lobstering Gear for Snorkelers

how to catch spiny lobster

Here is a quick list of the needed gear for catching lobster in the Keys while snorkeling:

Bonus Items

Best Lobster Gear

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What we’ve always found is you can never have enough gear, water, and sunscreen on board.

Do you have any special things “must have” items you bring on your lobster trips?

Let us know in the comments.

Lobster Catching Tips (for group)

how to catch lobster in the florida keys

Team Salt Strong for Mini-Season 2015 in Islamorada

  • Always have at least one person in the boat who is in charge of keeping an accurate count of how many lobsters are on the boat. Also, this person should double check the legal size of each lobster that comes onto the boat.
  • Take an extra net or two (and a couple of extra lobster tickle sticks) out because that allows the divers to simply drop the net off with the person in the boat and immediately get a new net to get back out and catch another keeper… saves from having to wait on the boat person to unload the lobster from the net before heading back out.
  • Take extra water and sunscreen… there’s no such thing as too much!

Bonus Benefit to Lobster Snorkeling

how to catch spiny lobster

When snorkeling for lobster, you simply never know where you’re going to see. We typically see a good amount of sharks, eels, goliath grouper, tarpon, barracuda, and tons of other sea life.

Also, you never know when the next hole might hold a keeper red grouper… check out this spearfishing video while lobstering.

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Conclusion

Snorkeling for lobster down in the FL Keys can be an incredibly fun activity for the entire family. However, it’s incredibly important to have the proper gear and to be very mindful of other boats and divers while out on the water… especially during mini-season when it sometimes seems as if the entire country is down there.

Also, it’s incredibly important to stay as relaxed and comfortable as possible when in the water both for safety as well as an increased ability to catch more lobster.

Most importantly, have fun out there and stay safe!

And always wear sunscreen. I have seen the absolute worst sunburns on people that forget the sun can literally destroy your back and forehead while snorkeling for the day.

[FREE WEBINAR] – “How To Find The Best Inshore Fishing Spots Anywhere In Florida” brought to you by Salt Strong.

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Gary Ch
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Gary Ch

I live 100 miles north of t he keys in Charlotte Harbor. Are there any decent lobster spots outside f the keys?

Gary Ch
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Gary Ch

Is there any decent lobstering outside of th keys in Florida? I live in Charlotte harbor on the west coast north of the Keys by about 120+ miles.

MELISSA CHOW
Member

Thank you for these tips! Especially the “relax, take some breaths”. Whenever I snorkel, it takes a while for me to adjust to the breathing thing. 🙁 When the water is chilly, I could almost hyperventilate the first few minutes. Throw in seeing a shark or barracuda and oh goodness! 🙄😔 Once I get caught up in the beauty of it all, it’s all good! Sure do hope we can make it down to the keys during season. Long drive, but would be so worth it!

lauri Hamilton
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lauri Hamilton

I read the whole article twice. Thank you for the effort, but you forgot to tell us how to catch a lobster! You told us how to find them and the tools (what the heck is a tickle stick?) to use and to drink water and use sunscreen, but how do you catch them?

CHRISTINE POULSEN
Member

Nice lobster article. can I, you use online maps to find coral heads and ledges? ive been going for mini season for 10years now in different keys areas. I have a hookah. I’m thinking to avoid all the family snorkelers I should concentrate on deeper ( 10-15 ft) areas with current. I’ll be coming out Kemp channel to gulf. do you have any recomendations ?
thanks, im an insider

Kenn Yarina
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Kenn Yarina

Great video on lobstering… thanks. I’m coming to the Keys March 30th 2018 and picking up a barefoot charter (45 catamaran). I’ll be setting sail out of Marina Del Mar Saturday morning , the last day of lobster season. In an effort to maximize my success for the only day I’ll be able to lobster do you have any recommendations on good hunting grounds outside of Marina Del Mar and south. Currently I was thinking of anchoring outside around Rodriguez Key or Tavernier Key or would I be better hunting further out this late in the season?

John Grieve
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John Grieve

I once had crabs as big as lobsters.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Is it possible to rent a kayak and go lobstering if we have a lobster kit? If so, is there a good spot you can recommend?

Amy
Guest
Amy

Any recommendations on a mask and snorkel?

Bill Beck
Member

EXCELLENT VIDEO JOE

UBANGEE
Guest
UBANGEE

Sunscreen? Really? Mommy, is that you??

Ken Elie
Member

If you or anyone you know had Squamous or Melanoma cancer you might understand skin cancer can kill you

Joseph Simonds
Admin

Hey Ubangee, I was lucky to survive skin cancer (melanoma) about 8 years ago and I would give anything to go back in time and put more sunscreen on while out on the water. Had I not gone in when I did, there is a good chance I would not be here. So yes, sunscreen is pretty critical.

Tom
Guest
Tom

very wise information

Bryant Fender
Ambassador

Do you use just regular cotton socks or neoprene socks? I bought some neoprene ones last year but they seem to be worse on my feet.

Linda Prin
Guest
Linda Prin

A few years ago I went as a single female and did some crab fishing/catching off the Washington state coast. It was a great time. Now I have a family and your site has convinced me this would be an incredible time for us to spend. Thank you for helping me and my family find some new goals.

SpinyMike
Member

Check out THE MIAMI SPINY LOBSTER TOURNAMENT mini season 2016 .. and THE MIAMI MINI SEASON SLAM…this is a annual event to raise money for STILTSVILLE OPTIMIST .. we generate good time for groups that might not get a chance to experience Florida waters.. I can send you more info or pictures..