Summertime in Florida means a wealth of opportunities for the adventurous angler.
Aside from great hook-and-line fishing, there is a chance to snorkel up a catch that would break the bank at the counter of your local fish monger. Hand picking scallops in the Gulf or netting Caribbean lobster in South Florida always provides great fun and good eats.
Each year my family convenes in the Gulf of Mexico waters off either Crystal River or Steinhatchee to harvest the tasty bay scallops. Those abundant shellfish can be picked in waters as shallow as five feet. This is fun for the entire family!
When our son Landan (now 38) was eight or nine years old we put water wings on his arms and allowed him to float about to point out the scallops on the bottom where one of us would dive to gather them. Now he is preparing his young children to join in.
We don't have bay scallops here on the east coast, so you need to drive across state, but the trip is surely worth it. A fishing license is required and the limit is two gallons per person per day (in the shell.) Not to exceed 10 gallons per vessel. The season runs from July 1 to Sept. 24 (Labor Day in Steinhatchee.)
Heading south, the Florida lobster mini season happens on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July. The state allows recreational anglers two days to catch lobsters before the commercial traps go into the waters. This is always a great time and on those two days hard working snorkelers can catch some of those delicious shellfish.
In the Keys, the limit is six per person per day, not to exceed 24 per vessel per day, but that means during the two-day season, four people on a boat may bring home 48 lobsters. What a haul! Every time I have made the trip to the Florida Keys for the mini-season, we were successful in getting those four dozen lobsters.
Snorkeling the mini-season does have its drawbacks. First off, the crowds are huge. Each year during the last week of July, more than 30,000 divers descend on the Keys to lobster. Rooms are non-existent and so are camp spaces. If you don't have reservations already, you should be planning for next year.
Once there you will run into more law enforcement than you may have ever seen on the water. Officers from places like Pensacola, Jacksonville and Tampa may be there checking boats and catches. Make sure your boat has all the safety equipment needed and that you and your crew have the appropriate licenses.
If you are required to have a fishing license, you must also have a lobster stamp. Each diver must have a lobster measuring device with them at all times when in the water. Those are inexpensive, but absolutely necessary.
One thing to avoid when lobstering is the taking of stone crabs. Lobsters and crabs hang out in the same type of bottom, but stone crabs will not be in season with the lobster mini-season. Don't be tempted or you will pay dearly.
Aside from all that, lobster snorkeling is great fun and provides delicious meals. So, get into the water this summer. You won't be sorry!
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to email@example.com. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.