University of Florida

Florida's Spiny Lobster Recreational Regulations

Starting on August 6 and ending March 31, hundreds of thousands of boaters, divers, and snorkelers search along Florida’s coastal waterways and throughout the Florida Keys for spiny lobsters.

Florida provides 100 percent of the nation's commercial spiny lobster landings, making it the state's most valuable fishery. Not only that, but south Florida and the Florida Keys rake in about $24 million each year thanks to recreational lobster harvesting.

Unlike the American lobster, spiny lobsters don’t have the well-known, large front claws and are harvested for their tail meat instead.

To maintain the spiny lobster population for future harvests, be sure to follow the recreational regulations.

Recreational Regulations

  • Required licenses include the recreational saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit, unless exempt.
  • There is a bag limit of six lobsters per person per day (in and off the water).
  • The carapace, or the lobster’s body shell, must be larger than 3 inches—measure the carapace from the edge between the rostral horns to the edge before the tail begins.
  • A measuring device or gauge is required at all times, and the lobster must be measured in the water.
  • It’s illegal to harvest spiny lobsters carrying eggs, which can be found under the tail.
  • Recreational trapping is illegal.
  • The lobster must remain whole—separating a lobster’s tail from its body is prohibited in state waters.
  • It is prohibited to catch a spiny lobster with any device that could damage or puncture its shell.  
  • When diving to catch lobster, each boat must have a visible divers-down flag that is 20 inches by 24 inches.
  • Stay within 300 feet of the divers-down flag/buoy in open water and within 100 feet in rivers or inlets.
  • Harvesting lobster is illegal in the following areas: Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary, specific areas in John Pennekamp State Park, and no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

For more information about spiny lobster harvesting and associated regulations, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website.

Excerpted and adapted from:

"Florida's Spiny Lobster Fishery: A history of user conflict," UF/IFAS Sea Grant (Accessed 08/2014).

Recreational Regulations: Spiny Lobster,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Accessed 08/2014).


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