California spiny lobster

Recreational Spiny Lobster Season to Open Saturday, Oct. 3

California’s recreational spiny lobster season is set to kick off Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 at 6 a.m., continuing through March 17, 2021. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) marine biologists are hopeful that this could be a bountiful year for divers and hoop netters.

“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,” said CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Jenny Hofmeister. “There was a major El Niño event that started in 2014, so we might see an abundance of legal-sized bugs this year!”

Season-opening weekend is one of the busiest times on the water, as thousands of lobster divers and hoop netters flock to their favorite lobstering spot. Before heading out to the water, be sure you know all the current regulations.

“No one can attempt to take lobster prior to 6 a.m. on Oct. 3. This includes baiting your hoop net or grabbing lobsters with your hand prior to 6 a.m.,” said CDFW Lt. Eric Kord. “With a sunrise at around 6:45 a.m. on the morning of the opener, that means there will be a very short window of time to legally take lobster in the dark, when most lobsters are out.”

A lobster report card is required for all persons fishing for lobster, and individuals 16 years or older must have a valid sport fishing license and ocean enhancement stamp. When finished fishing, changing locations or changing gear type, you must immediately record the number of lobsters kept from that location. 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.

Lobster report cards must be returned or submitted online to CDFW at the end of each season by April 30, regardless of whether the card was used, or whether any lobsters were caught. If you fill up a lobster report card, you can report it to CDFW and purchase another. 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.

Lobster report cards can be purchased online. Report cards cannot be printed at home, so CDFW recommends allowing 15 days for the report card to arrive in the mail. Alternatively, lobster report cards can be purchased at participating sporting goods stores and other approved license sales agents.

The daily lobster bag and possession limit is seven. Any lobster kept must be at least 3 ¼ inches long 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. Everyone taking lobster must have a measuring device capable of accurately determining legal length. A diagram illustrating this can be found on CDFW’s website.

Lobster can only be taken with hoop nets or by hand. No other device (such as spears or poles) may be used. 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. When using hoop nets on piers, jetties or other shore-based structures, only two hoop nets may be used.

When taking lobster, please consult the Ocean Sport Fishing Interactive Web Map for the California coastline to ensure you are not fishing in prohibited waters. “It is extremely important that divers and hoop netters know the location and regulations for each Marine Protected Area (MPA) near where they will be fishing. Unfortunately, every year we issue numerous citations to people taking lobster, both divers and hoop netters alike, for unlawful take in an MPA,” said Lt. Kord.

The complete spiny lobster regulations are contained in the 2020-2021 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, found on CDFW’s website and wherever fishing licenses are sold. A lobster fishing FAQ and other biological information specific to California’s spiny lobster can also be found on the CDFW website.

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Media Contacts:
Tom Mason, CDFW Marine Region, (562) 417-2791
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Recreational Spiny Lobster Season to Open Sept. 28

Thousands of lobster divers and hoop netters are eagerly awaiting the start of the sport season for California’s spiny lobster, which opens at 6 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 28 and continues through March 18, 2020.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Marine Environmental Scientist Jenny Hofmeister, last season was an exceptionally plentiful year. “There was a 16 percent increase in reported recreational catch compared to the previous season,” Hofmeister said. “You might think this is due to more fishing effort, but the average number of lobsters caught per trip increased, too.”

A lobster report card is required for all persons fishing for lobster. Individuals who are 16 years or older must also possess a valid sport fishing license and ocean enhancement stamp in order to take lobster south of Point Arguello. Any person using hoop nets from a public pier and children who are under 16 and fishing for lobster do not need a license but must possess a valid lobster report card.

A typical legal-size spiny lobster will average about one pound in weight. Occasionally divers and hoop netters will find lobsters over five pounds (considered trophy size) in California waters. Spiny lobster taken must measure at least 3 1/4 inches in length and are 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. The daily bag and possession limit is seven lobsters.

Lobster can be taken with hoop nets and by hand only when skin or SCUBA diving. No appliance (such as fish spears or poles) may be used to assist. No more than five hoop nets may be possessed by a person when taking spiny lobster or crab (or two hoop nets on piers, jetties and other shore-based structures), and no more than 10 hoop nets may be possessed aboard a vessel, regardless of how many fishers are onboard.

CDFW marine biologists suggest using an oily or aromatic bait to dispense a scent trail that nearby lobsters will follow back to the net. Squid, Pacific mackerel, bonito, anchovies and sardines may serve as good bait. A bait container will help prevent the loss of bait to fish or other large predators such as seals and sea lions.

Because lobsters are strong and have hair-trigger responses when they sense predators, the best strategy for divers is usually to grab or pin them to the bottom by their body, rather than grabbing it by a leg or antennae which will likely tear off. Although lobsters can regenerate lost limbs, marine biologists have found that these lobsters ultimately produce fewer offspring because of the energy requirements for limb regeneration.

All individuals must have a Spiny Lobster Report Card in possession while fishing or taking lobster. When finished fishing or changing locations, fishers must immediately record the number of lobster taken from that location. Lobster report cards must be returned or submitted online to CDFW at the end of each season by April 30, regardless of whether the card was used or any lobster were caught. Fishers who fill up a report card can turn in their card and purchase another. Failure to submit an accurate report card by the deadline will result in a nonreporting fee that is charged when you purchase a report card next season.

“Each year we only get about 50 percent of lobster report card holders reporting their catch. Our goal is to get as close to 100 percent as possible,” Hofmeister said. “Data from these report cards allow us to determine if catch is increasing or decreasing, the number of lobsters caught per fishing trip, and which gear type is the most efficient. All these pieces of information help managers monitor the population. Everyone benefits from reporting your catch on time. Lobster divers and hoop netters avoid paying the non-return fee, and, more importantly, CDFW scientists can ensure the fishery remains sustainable.”

Lobster fishers should consult the Marine Protected Area maps for the California coastline to ensure they are not fishing in prohibited waters.

The complete spiny lobster regulations are contained in the 2019-2020 Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet, found on CDFW’s website and wherever fishing licenses are sold. A lobster fishing FAQ and other biological information specific to California’s spiny lobster can also be found on the CDFW website.

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Media Contacts:
Jenny Hofmeister, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 467-4214
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

 

lobster and gauge

Opening Weekend of Lobster Season Keeps Southern California Wildlife Officers Busy

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Wildlife officers from across Southern California participated in an enhanced patrol for opening weekend of the 2018 lobster season, which began on Sept. 29. The goal was to facilitate a safe and enjoyable start to lobster season and enforce the laws so future generations can also enjoy the sport.

Wildlife officers from inland regions of Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties converged on the coast to pool resources and enhance coverage. Both shore-based patrols and boat patrols were utilized. In total, officers made 2,088 contacts with lobster fishers, gave 165 warnings and issued 106 citations. Citations included overlimit of lobster and other fish, take of undersized lobster and other fish, unlawful take from Marine Protected Areas, lobster report card violations, an unlawful Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel operation and even a DUI.

One particularly notable case was in San Diego, where wildlife officers on boat patrol pulled up on a vessel with two persons on board. Upon approach, the men started throwing lobsters overboard. The officers quickly boarded the vessel and located 26 lobsters hidden throughout. The men were cited for an overlimit of lobster and report card violations. Another significant bust and citation occurred farther north in Orange County, where two wildlife officers made one case involving 27 lobsters taken the night prior to the opener (thus out of season).

During a large opener like this, the vast majority of individuals contacted by officers are law-abiding fishers and divers who cooperate with law enforcement and are even eager to show off their hard-earned catch. For example, in Dana Point Harbor in Orange County, Warden Andreas Gilbert contacted a group of four lobster free-divers (a free-diver is a diver who holds their breath, dives to the bottom for lobster, sometimes in the dark with a flashlight in one hand, and grabs the lobster with the other). The four were in possession of several legal lobsters and were extremely cooperative with Gilbert. After the contact, they asked to pose for a photo with Gilbert, who happily obliged.

CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division reminds lobster fishers to keep their activities safe. SCUBA divers should make sure their gear is in order and they are healthy and strong enough to safely dive. Most dive shops offer refresher courses for SCUBA-certified divers who may be rusty. At minimum, divers should try on all their gear ahead of time and hop in a pool. And always dive with a buddy – never alone.

Officers are always on patrol, and this year they are keeping a particularly close eye out for incidents of poaching from commercial traps. The State of California has partnered with commercial lobster fishers on permitting and scientific data collection for decades, and strictly regulates commercial lobster fishing in large part to support and protect the resource and industry. Stealing from commercial traps is a serious crime – in addition to being illegal, the behavior is unethical and unsportsmanlike, and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. In July, a San Diego area poacher previously convicted of stealing lobsters from traps was convicted and sentenced to 45 days in jail, was fined $1,000 and all gear seized during the investigation was forfeited by the court. He was also placed on three years probation, during which time he must stay away from the South La Jolla State Marine Reserve.

Please visit CDFW’s lobster information webpage to review helpful information and links to current regulations.

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Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 322-8911
Lt. Scott Bringman, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (619) 562-2456

California spiny lobster

Recreational Spiny Lobster Season to Open Sept. 29

Thousands of lobster fishers are eagerly awaiting the start of the sport season for California’s spiny lobster, which opens at 6 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 29 and continues through March 20, 2019.

According to California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Marine Environmental Scientist Jenny Hofmeister, the most lobsters last season were caught off Catalina Island. “In the past, San Diego has usually been the most plentiful spot,” she said. “But recently many fishers are finding success out at the islands.”

A lobster report card is required for all persons fishing for lobster and individuals 16 years or older must also possess a valid sport fishing license and ocean enhancement stamp to take lobster south of Point Arguello. Any person using hoop nets from a public pier and children who are under 16 and fishing for lobster do not need a license but must possess a valid lobster report card.

A typical legal-size spiny lobster will average about one pound in weight. Occasionally divers and hoop netters will find lobsters over five pounds (considered trophy size) in California waters. Spiny lobster taken must measure at least 3 1/4 inches in length and are 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. The daily bag limit for lobster is seven per person and an individual may not possess more than seven at any time except when a valid declaration for a multi-day trip has been obtained.

Lobster can be taken with hoop nets and by skin or SCUBA divers by hand only. No appliance (such as fish spears or poles) may be used to assist. Additional regulations governing the sport take of lobster and general fishing information can be found in the California Spiny Lobster Fishing brochure.  Lobster fishers should also consult the Marine Protected Area maps for the California coastline to ensure they are not fishing in prohibited waters.

CDFW marine biologists suggest using an oily or aromatic bait to dispense a scent trail that nearby lobsters will follow back to the net. Squid, Pacific mackerel, bonito, anchovies, sardines and even cat food may serve as good bait. A wire mesh bait container will help prevent the loss of bait to fish or other large predators such as seals and sea lions.

Because lobsters are strong and have hair-trigger responses when they sense predators, the best strategy for divers is usually to grab or pin the lobster to the bottom by their body, rather than grabbing it by a leg or antennae which will likely tear off. Although lobsters can regenerate lost limbs, marine biologists have found that these lobsters ultimately produce fewer offspring because of the energy requirements for limb regeneration.

“They definitely can sense your hesitation,” Hofmeister said. “Most of their daily life is spent trying not to get eaten, so they are pretty good at getting away if you aren’t quick enough.”

Lobster report cards must be returned or submitted online to CDFW at the end of each season by April 30, regardless of whether the card was used or any lobster were caught. Fishers who fill up a report card can turn in their card and purchase another. Failure to report catch from all cards by the deadline will result in a nonreporting fee that is charged when you purchase a report card next season.

“Reporting your catch is so important for managing the recreational lobster fishery,” Hofmeister said. “Our goal is to ensure that we can all be catching lobster decades from now, and to do that we need to know how many are being caught, where you are catching them, and what it took to get them. That is why we want to know about all of your trips – including the ones where you get skunked.”

The complete spiny lobster regulations are contained in the 2018-2019 Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet, found on CDFW’s website and wherever fishing licenses are sold. A lobster fishing FAQ and other biological information specific to California’s spiny lobster can also be found on the CDFW website.

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Media Contacts:
Jenny Hofmeister, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 467-4214
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

 

California spiny lobster (CDFW photo by Derek Stein)

Spiny Lobster Report Cards Due by April 30

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds 2017-2018 Spiny Lobster Report Card holders to submit online or return their cards by April 30, 2018, as required by law. The cards must be reported even if no lobsters were taken or no attempts were made to take lobsters.

Information collected from the cards provides CDFW with data necessary to monitor and manage California’s spiny lobster fishery. Card holders should review their report cards carefully and check that the information recorded is complete and accurate.

Any 2017-2018 Spiny Lobster Report Card holder who fails to submit online or return his or her card(s) by April 30, 2018 will be charged a non-return fee of $21.60 upon purchase of a 2018-2019 Spiny Lobster Report Card. Otherwise, he or she may choose to skip the 2018-2019 fishing season to be able to purchase a spiny lobster report card a following season at no extra cost. If multiple spiny lobster report cards were purchased, all cards, including lost cards, should be reported to avoid the non-return fee when purchasing a spiny lobster report card next lobster fishing season.

Spiny Lobster Report Card data can be submitted online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/FishingHarvest or by mail to:

CDFW – Lobster Report Card
3883 Ruffin Road
San Diego, CA 92123

For additional information and a list of frequently asked questions about this program, please visit CDFW’s California Spiny Lobster webpage.

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Media Contacts:
Marina Som
, CDFW Marine Region, (858) 467-4229

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988