Lobster hunting in California: A guide to regulations

By: Parimal M. Rohit

Whether you are diving from a boat or from shore, you will need a sport fishing license from the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. If you are 16 years of age or older and want to hunt lobsters, you must obtain this license from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. An annual license costs $46.44 for California residents and $124.77 for non-residents. There are also one-, two-, and 10-day licenses available for purchase.

Divers must obtain an Ocean Enhancement Stamp in addition to a sport fishing license. The stamp costs $5.14.

Spiny Lobster Report Card
Any person fishing for spiny lobster is required to carry a Spiny Lobster Report Card. This report card can be obtained with your sportfishing license from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The report card costs $9.22 through the department. The Department of Fish and Wildlife website states the reason for a report card “is to monitor recreational spiny lobster catch, fishing effort and the gear used in the recreational fishery.” Anyone who obtains a Spiny Lobster Report Card must return the report card at the end of the season.

For divers, the report card must be kept within 500 yards from the port of entry.

Unlike the age restriction on licenses, people of all ages are required to have a Spiny Lobster Report Card.

What NOT To Use
The following items are not allowed to be used in a lobster catch off the California coast:
Tickle stick
Short hooked pole; or other similar tool.

Under California law, spiny lobster may only be taken by hand or by hoop net. You cannot use any other devices to take or assist in taking lobster.

In addition, if you are a sport fisherman, you may not use a trap to capture or take a lobster.

Finally, if you capture a lobster “incidentally” on a hook and line while fishing, it must immediately be returned to sea.

Hoop Nets
California regulates how many hoop nets are allowed on a boat. An individual can use up to five bated hoop nets, while no more than 10 hoop nets are allowed on a vessel, no matter the number of people aboard.
If you are searching for lobster from a public pier, you are legally entitled to use up to two appliances, whether it be two hoop nets, one rod and reel and one hoop net, or two rods and reels.

Lobsters must be kept whole until consumption
Another state regulation requires anyone who legally harvests a spiny lobster to keep it in “whole, measurable condition” until he or she prepares it for immediate consumption.

The Magnificent Seven
The daily limit of lobsters you can take home: seven lobsters in one bag. State law further states you must first consume of or dispose all seven lobsters in possession before you are allowed to return to sea to hunt for another batch.

State law does allow one to file a declaration for a multi-day dive for lobster. If this declaration is approved, the person is allowed to bring home three daily bags. The declaration must be filed with the state at least 48 hours prior to when the boat is scheduled to head out to sea.

Recreation Lobster Season begin and end dates, 2014-2015 and 2015-1016
2014-15: Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014 through Wednesday, March 18, 2015
2015-16: Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015 through Wednesday, March 16, 2016

2 thoughts on “Lobster hunting in California: A guide to regulations

  • October 26, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Do I need a license to lobster fish off the pier in San Diego County, Ca

  • November 3, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    no. You do need a license to fish in lakes and on surf but on any man made structure it is free


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