Spiny lobster season kicks off on Oct. 3

The El Niño event of 2014 might have resulted in a surge of legal-sized bugs swimming in local waters this year.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA—The 2020-2021 recreational spiny lobster season arrives on Saturday, Oct. 3 at 6 a.m. This year’s spiny lobster season will continue through March 17, 2021.

Lobster hunters could have a “bountiful” season, according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) staff. The El Niño event of 2014 could translate in an “abundance” of legal-sized spiny lobsters this year, CDFW staff said.

“Scientists have observed that lobsters produce more offspring in El Niño years, and it takes five to seven years for lobsters to reach legal size,” CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Jenny Hofmeister said in a released statement. “There was a major El Niño event that started in 2014, so we might see an abundance of legal-sized bugs this year!”

All lobster divers and hoop netters are required to have a “lobster report card.” Anyone hunting for lobster who is 16 years of age or older must also possess a valid sportfishing license and ocean enhancement card.

The best time to hunt for lobster is usually any time after sunset and before sunrise. California, however, changed the start time of the recreational spiny lobster season opener from midnight to 6 a.m. The sun is rising at about 6:45 a.m. this time of year, meaning the ability to hunt for lobster under the cover of darkness on opening day is limited to less than one hour.

“When finished fishing, changing locations or changing gear type, you must immediately record the number of lobsters kept from that location,” CDFW staff said. “Last season, close to 46,600 lobster trips were reported with an average take of about two lobster kept per trip. This average has remained relatively stable since 2008.

“Santa Catalina Island and San Diego Bay were popular locations for catching lobster with 15.5 percent and 13.3 percent of the total reported recreational catch, respectively,” CDFW staff continued.

Lobster report cards must be returned back to the state – either by snail mail or on the CDFW website – by April 30. The report card must be returned whether or not it was used.

“Failure to report catch, or lack thereof, from all lobster report cards by the reporting deadline will result in a nonreporting fee of $21.60 when a lobster report card is purchased next season,” CDFW staff stated.

Anyone hunting for spiny lobster can only catch the bugs by hand or with a hoop net. Spears, poles or other devices are not allowed.

“No more than five hoop nets may be possessed by a person when taking spiny lobster or crab from a boat, and no more than 10 hoop nets may be possessed aboard a vessel, regardless of how many people are onboard,” CDFW staff said. “When using hoop nets on piers, jetties or other shore-based structures, only two hoop nets may be used.”

CDFW’s daily bag and possession limit is seven. Will you be keeping a lobster you caught? The lobster, in such a case, must measure at least 3.25 inches long. The length, according to CDFW staff, is measured in a straight line on the midline of the back from the rear edge of the eye socket to the rear edge of the body shell,” according to CDFW staff.

“Everyone taking lobster must have a measuring device capable of accurately determining legal length,” CDFW staff continued.


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