We arrived in the Florida Keys well ahead of lobster season. Our boat is stored here in the Keys, and we were adding some features to the boat that was going to take some time. John spent a week on the boat before putting it in the water. All during calm weather too. Luck was with us this year, the light and variable winds stayed until our last week in the Keys. It made for some very hot weather, not having a breeze, so much that I purchased another fan to use outside our camper. Now John has one blowing on him and I have one blowing on me. Outdoor air conditioning at its best.
Mini season starts on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of the month. It is a two-day sport season that is only for recreational lobstering. After the two days, the commercial lobstermen can put their traps out, but they can not pull them until the start of lobster season, which is August 6 of every year.
Back to why we arrived here two weeks before the mini season. We like to spend a lot of time scouting out holes, to see where the lobsters are and which holes have the most lobsters. That way, we know exactly which hole we want to be on first thing opening day. We have so many holes marked now, there is no way we can check them all. John came up with a system on our GPS. He changed the color of the symbol to blue last year for our most productive holes. We have found in the past that lobsters tend to cluster in the same holes. Now John can quickly see on the screen of the GPS where our best holes are. Don’t get me wrong, we certainly check the other holes in the area as well to see if they have become a favorite of the lobster. Sure enough some of those holes were productive and some of the blue marked holes were not. This years good holes have a red symbol.
While we were scouting we definitely noticed a decline in the population of the lobster. So many holes were just empty, and other holes had very few legal size lobsters. A few holes had as many 18 legal lobsters, but this is really down from years past. We have a favorite hole where we have been able to limit out every year with four people on board and still leave legal lobsters behind. The limit is 6 per person per day. This year when we checked this particular hole, there was only 1 lonely lobster in it. We checked it again the day before the season started and still no lobster. Beats me why they were rejecting this hole, it is such a beauty. This was not going to be a good season.
A college buddy of John’s was joining us for mini season along with his wife. We have kept up with Mick and Cindy over the years and have taken some vacations together. Mick is a great diver and loves the water as much as John does. They were only in the Keys for four days. This was Cindy’s first trip to the Keys and she absolutely fell in love with them. I have a feeling she will be back next year. They took lobster home with them and some hog fish as well.
On opening day of mini season, we left the dock at five a.m. Leaving this early, we are almost assured we will be the first on the hole, and we were! It was a good thing we left early, because some boats came near by not long after we arrived. They moved on to another hole, but it was obvious we were on the one they wanted. This was the chosen one because there were 15 keepers on it and a lot of them were big. Now we wait for the sun to rise.
John and Mick were in the water before the sun actually appeared and had the first lobster by 6:50. We did get 15 nice lobsters off that hole. It took us diving four more holes to get the last 9 lobsters, but we had our limit by 8:00.
Second day of mini season was a completely different story. We didn’t bother getting up early, since all the holes had been picked over the previous day. In years past, we have never gotten our limit on the second day. This year was not going to be any different. Our friends, Mike and Pam, went out with us, making six on board. We left the docks at 9:00. John and I have what we believe to be a secret place and saved it for the second day for just that reason. It is in a grassy area where there are not any holes around it in a quarter-mile radius. Not only is it out in the middle of no where, you have to drive almost over it to even see it, meaning it is not visible from a short distance. We found it quite by accident when we were flying by in the boat. Sure enough, it had not been picked over. We managed to get 13 lobsters there and lots of them were big! After that, it was really slim pickings. Twenty more holes later, we only had four more lobsters and it was 12:30. Time to call it a day with only 17 lobsters and have some fun. We went to The Island for cocktails and lunch. Returning back to Jolly Roger, we cleaned the lobster and headed to the pool. There were not many reports of anyone getting their limits that day. Where are all the lobsters?
There is a week between mini season and regular lobster season. John and I took a couple of days off from boating and then decided on a day of fishing in the Atlantic. The water wasn’t too rough, but the fishing was a little slow. We did catch some hogfish and came back with three keepers.
Now we have three days to scout for lobster before the season opens. The good news is we were finding lobsters, only not in the numbers before mini season. We managed to find several holes with 10 or 11 keepers in them, but many holes were empty or only had a few keepers. Our friend, Dixie, would be going out with us, and Buddy would be going with Mike and Pam, but in the same area as us. This morning we didn’t leave ’til 5:30 and we were the first on our hole. We only got six off this spot, so I guess some of the lobsters walked during the night. Lobsters feed during the night and may end up in a different hole. After checking 16 more, we finally had our limit of 18 lobsters at 11:00. The other boat had their limit by 12:00.
After opening day, we continued lobstering, sometimes with just the two of us and other times with other people on board. We had good days where we managed to get our limit and we had bad days where we only came back with four. Everyone in the campground was struggling to find lobster. We heard that they were slaying them down around Big Pine Key. From the stories we heard, I guess that was where all the lobsters were this year. After three weeks of regular season along with the two-day mini season, John and I came home with 102 lobsters. Not too bad, all in all, but it was a lot of hard work to get those.
We did more than just lobstering. Six of us went to the Sombrero Reef to snorkel on a calm day. It was so beautiful! I bought a disposable water proof camera to use, but not many of the pictures turned out good. All of us enjoyed the reef, and we went to lunch at Sunset Grill.
Did I mention all the beautiful sunsets we enjoyed? No, well, there were many of them. Lots of people gather every evening for the sunsets hoping to see a green flash. If conditions are right, a green flash will appear just at the last moment the sun sets into the water. I did not see a green flash this year.
We also shared many dinners with friends, either gathering at our place or theirs. Also, the pool felt really nice after coming back from lobstering.
Hopefully, the lobster population will be up next year. Maybe we would have better luck if we let this guy ride along with us.
We really enjoyed the Florida Keys, but now time to head back home and get ready for our next trip. California, here we come!