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Catch the Bug While You Can!

04 Apr 2017 9:03 am

Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost Travel Journalist

Divers and snorkelers have just over three weeks to catch lobster before the Florida harvest season closes on April 1. They won’t get another chance to bag a limit of bugs until the annual mini-season July 26-27.

Here to help you load the barbecue grill (and maybe even the freezer) is Captain Joe Mastrangelo– retired U.S. Navy SEAL, scuba instructor, and bug catcher extraordinaire at Captain Slate’s Scuba Adventures Dive Center, a Guy Harvey Outpost Outfitter near Islamorada.

“Be patient. It’s hit or miss. Plan on spending the whole day. You might nail them in the first ten minutes or you might spend four hours in the water,” Mastrangelo advised. “It’s called hunting.”

This time of year, the dive guide says, the crustaceans could be anywhere in the Keys — from 12-to-15-foot-deep patch reefs in Hawk Channel all the way out to 70 feet deep on the main reef tract. They could be clustered beneath a single coral head or spread out in sandy depressions surrounded by sea grass beds.

“They don’t really stay put; they move,” Mastrangelo said. “I’ve been to caverns in 20 feet of water with 10, 12, 15 of them in there. Go back in a week and they’re all gone.”

The good news for late-winter lobster hunters: waters clarity tends to be better than in the heat of summer and there’s less competition from other divers and commercial trappers. Many commercial fishers in the Keys concentrate on stone crabs rather than lobster this time of year.

Mastrangelo’s tools of the trade are a five-foot-long tickle stick and a small hand net with a thin frame. He’ll show you how to tap-tap-tap a lobster gently on the tail to coax it out of its lair far enough to slap the net over it and then transfer it to your catch bag.

About the Author

Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost Travel Journalist

Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on

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