Parimal M. Rohit
STATEWIDE — Recreational spiny lobster hunters can dive back into the water in search of their favorite marine crustacean beginning Oct. 3. The season, as usual, begins at midnight and will remain open through March 16, 2016.
The 2015-2016 spiny lobster season will be slightly shorter than the 2014-2015 season, which ran from Sept. 27, 2014 to March 18.
All lobster hunters must obtain a sport fishing license from the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). Licenses can be purchased for the entire season or in one-, two- and 10-day increments. Divers must also obtain an Ocean Enhancement Stamp in addition to the license.
Lobster hunters must also obtain and carry a Spiny Lobster Report Card. The card must be in possession at all times; divers must keep the card within 500 yards of the port of entry.
Visit wildlife.ca.gov for information about costs.
Anyone diving or hunting for lobster in California are currently prohibited from using short hooked poles, snares, spears, tickle sticks or other similar tool. State law requires divers and hunters to capture a spiny lobster only by hand or hoop net. Any lobster incidentally caught on a hook and line while fishing must immediately be returned to sea.
An individual can use up to five baited hoop nets, while no more than 10 hoop nets are allowed on a vessel, no matter the number of people aboard.
California also requires recreational divers and hunters to keep lobsters whole until consumption.
The daily limit of lobsters to be taken home is seven lobsters in one bag. All seven lobsters must be consumed or disposed of before a diver or hunter can return to sea to hunt for another batch.
Divers can file a declaration for a multi-day dive for lobster, allowing him or her 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.
This will be the second to final season for current spiny lobster regulations. The Fish and Game Commission anticipates enacting a Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan in time for the 2017-2018 season. If adopted, the FMP could require recreational divers to clip the tails of their lobster catches and move the Saturday morning season opener start time six hours ahead from midnight to 6 a.m., among other new regulations.