Diving Key West Lobsters DIVE FLAG and Other Lobster Tips

Ok Kids Pop quiz…. Here is some helpful information about Lobstering this mini season that may help you, keep you alive and out of jail….

I have been in the diving industry since 1978 when I got certified. My parents treated me like a slave to catch lobster here in the Keys since I was 12 (1980) I have seen the changes to the reefs and areas I used to lobster. People are not careful…. In my career as a captain (since 1986) and time in the Coast Guard I have seen what can happen when dive flags are not used or misused.. This lobster mini season can be fun. So enjoy and don’t be STUPID..

This Is A Dive Flag….

OK here we go…
Whats the dumbest thing you can do right before you get in the water to dive for lobsters here in Key West?
Forget Your Dive Flag…..

Yes.. thats about the dumbest thing you will do all day.. That one little thing can start a trickle effect of EPIC proportions.. DONT FORGET TO BRING IT! more importantly DONT FORGET TO USE IT.


Here at Dream Catcher Charters we intentionally DO NOT. get underway for any charters during the Florida Keys Lobster mini season. Why?
Cause as a group most of  the people that dive lobsters are without a doubt can be the most careless boaters on the planet. We are in fear of them. Yes, you heard me. The worst.. Keep in mind I said “Most” not “all”…

My biggest concern this time of the year is not the guy using his Dive Flag. Its the guy who is not. I will be running along at 40 minding my own business making my way through the day. There is a boat off in the distance.. I wave.. They wave back.. Oh My God.. there is a snorkeler dead off my bow that just came up. What the hell is he doing way out here from shore.. Certainly he could not be with that boat way over there? could he? YUP and they don’t have a dive flag up. If I was not as concerned about things like this I could have run over 3 dozen people in my 25 year career as a captain.

So —- Don’t forget to use your Dive Flag when diving for lobsters and Stay with your boat or boats, stay with your diver and put up your dive flag.. OR Divers take a personal float Dive Flag with you….

Leave Your Dive flag Up

DONT DO IT……Dive flags are intended to be used when DIVING>> not running to the next spot, sand bar hopping, trolling for dolphin in 2000 feet of water, going through the harbor on a cocktail cruise.. Dive flags are for the event of people commencing in the practice of diving in the  water at the time they are actually DIVING, or Snorkeling.. Thats what it is for..

Boaters…. When you see A dive flag….

Avoid the area to the best of your ability. If (and this happens allot) they are in a channel marked by aides to navigation, negotiate the channel at idle speed with a bow look out posted to avoid hitting lose divers. I know its a pain in the ass but DO IT. This could save someones life. Even though they are too far away from their boat most likely, even though they are in a marked channel, ANCHORED which by the rules is ILLEGAL – we are not in charge of Darwin’s selection.

Now.. you all are doing great here in Class… Lets talk about lobster season limits… Yes.. there are limits to how many lobsters you may take.. Believe it or not..

Its Really Simple…

First you and everyone that will be lobstering will need their own individual Florida Fishing license with a lobster endorsement.. Its like 17.00 or something like that. Cheap, compared to the fuel you will burn getting to your lobsters with 14 people on your boat.. Florida fishing licenses can be purchased at marinas and tackle shops all through the keys..

Florida Keys Lobster Limits Mini Season

YOU ARE ALLOWED TO TAKE Not More than 6 (six) (Sies) (IIIIII) VI lobsters (ok get this) PER LICENSED PERSON Aiding In The Harvest Only….. Yes Folks.. that means your 3 month old infant DOES NOT COUNT… ! Neither does your 95 year old Uncle that has never snorkeled a day in his life sitting on the boat in street clothes.. AIDING IN THE HARVEST means to get IN the water and try to CAPTURE a lobster..

Per DAY!!!! Yup… thats right folks.. PER DAY.. Thats one 24 hour period.. Per day.. not three limits per day.. its One (uno) (1) (I) PER DAY.. One trip to catch limit per day… thats 12 lobsters for 1 (one) (uno) person for the TWO (2) (dose) days of MINI lobster season.

So let me break this down.. You leave the dock with 10 souls on board. 8 (eight) (ocho) of them can catch lobsters or at least act like it…one is 3 months old and one is 95 years old in street clothes…  Then you are allowed 48 lobsters.. Not 60… 48 Lobsters will feed a huge number of people.

LOBSTER HABITAT… thats where the lobsters live and are allowed for you to catch them… Its a simple rule… IF the house for the lobster you are trying to catch is MAN MADE…. It is illegal to catch that lobster.. Use your head here .. Boats, Washing machines, car hoods, wrecks, cars, refrigerators, grills, core gated aluminum, slate steel, roofing material, pill boxes, junk on the bottom, parts of boats, ANYTHING MAN MADE is OFF LIMITS TO HARVEST!!! People (friends of mine) have spent YEARS in jail for this.. Don’t Do it.. it will seriously mess up your vacation.

That Means.. You will be diving (Put up your dive flag) at the natural spots.. Take good care to leave it the way you found it.. You can see the bottom.. Anchor in the sandy spots.. don’t drag your crap all over the coral heads, anchor chain, rope, ect… drop in the sand (put up dive flag) and swim… While you are harvesting your 6 lobster take care not to touch the tops of the rocks (coral) break off stiff corals or sea fans. and do NOT lift rocks (coral) up to get after lobsters… Thats SO WRONG!>. that is someones house… Plus in all the dust the lobster will just disappear.

Now as far as how, where and what to catch them with.. Thats your discovery. 

Ok here is the pop quiz….

How do I get run over by a boat while snorkeling?
Don’t use a dive flag during Key West lobster mini season…
Get to far away from your boat with the dive flag
Dive in Marked Channels Without a dive flag
Don’t use a Personal Dive flag Float
Don’t make them use a personal dive flag float….

 How do I get an invite to appear in Court here in Key West?
Spear a lobster.
get caught over harvesting… (2 trips)
Dive an artificial habitat.
Get caught tailing lobsters. (Taking tails off the Heads)
Get caught with 6 or more undersized lobsters

Whats the best way to protect the areas I am snorkeling?
Keep your hands off the tops of coral…
Anchor in the sandy areas…
Harass only the lobsters
Put things back

A Note From Me….

Just so everyone knows.. I am NOTa huge fan of the Florida Keys Mini Lobster but i never begrudge anyone for catching lobsters.. Lord knows I have killed a bunch. I dislike it mostly because it puts haste in the harvest and people make mistakes and become possessive unsafe boaters and divers.. (see: Crazy)

Comercial Lobster Diving Guy.. Capt. Steven Lamp

As a local I enjoy helping others be successful in their harvest of lobster, I just want them to be safe for themselves and the environment and treat our islands with respect. More often than not when running into harvesters from other areas I find them to be rude and very arming..

The argument is that the Florida Keys needs the money. My answer to that is, if the Florida Keys are going bankrupt from not having two days of “this” then we have bigger issues.

My answer is why not just open the season earlier or just have it on the 6th of August and everyone gets to play the same. On their Schedule. I get the whole kids to school thing… but ….. really? What did they do Before mini season existed..

Cons To It

  1. Reef Suffers a Beating
  2. Grass flats suffer a beating
  3. Makes the islands a complete mess. The place stinks for three days.
  4. two days of boating chaos on the water, Worse than 4th of July, Labor Day and Memorial day combined..
  5. FEW people hold themselves to regulations then fight it when caught. They think its like Wild West.
  6. Many people come here to Exploit the resource instead of enjoy.

Pros That I see

  1. Bars benefit from it.
  2. Accommodations benefit from it
  3. T shirt shops benefit from it
  4. Restaurants benefit from it


So, Good luck and Be safe Lobstering this year.. !

About Capt. Steven Lamp
Dr Catcher Is - Capt. Steven Lamp - Owner of Dream Catcher Charters is a veteran Key West fishing guide for flats fishing, deep sea fishing, wrecks and reef fishing, and fly fishing. An expert waterman and licensed captain since 1986. A Veteran of the United States Coast Guard Heavy Weather Search and Rescue, I.G.F.A. Certified Captain and Standing regional board member of The Florida Fishing Guides Association