Lobster season in California is right around the corner, with the 6-1/2 month season officially opening at 12:01am on Saturday, September 28th. Before jumping in the water in pursuit of your catch, here’s a quick review of some of the 2013 lobster rules and regulations you need to be aware of before hitting the water.
1. You’ll need a fishing license and lobster report card
Any person who is 16 years of age or older must possess a valid sport fishing license when taking any fish or lobster in California. An annual resident fishing license costs $45.93 this year. Divers will also need the Ocean Enhancement Stamp which is $5.14.
Non-California residents can opt for an annual license for $123.38, or purchase a one, two, or ten day license to save some cash.
Licenses can now be purchased online here.
In addition to having a valid license, all individuals (even those under age 16) must have a spiny lobster report card in their possession while fishing for or taking lobster, or assisting in fishing for lobster. In the case of a person diving from a boat, the report card may be kept in the boat. In the case of a person diving from the shore, the report card must be kept within 500 yards from the point of entry. Each card costs $9.46.
Unlike abalone and sturgeon report cards, there is currently no limit on the number of lobster report cards one can purchase.
2. You’ll need to make sure you return your lobster card at the end of the season.
Report cardholders who fail to return their 2013- 2014 spiny lobster report card by the April 30, 2014 deadline will be assessed a $20.00 non-return fee when they purchase a 2014/2015 spiny lobster report card.
Report cards should be mailed to:
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Lobster Report Card
3883 Ruffin Rd.
San Diego, CA 92123
3. You’re limited to 7 lobster per day
While you can take up to 7 lobster per day, and no more than one daily bag limit may be taken or possessed by any one person unless otherwise authorized, regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen or otherwise preserved. This means that if you have a limit of seven lobsters at home, you cannot go out and get more lobsters until the first limit is disposed of in some way (eaten, given away, etc).
If you’re going out on a multi-day dive trip for lobster, you can file for a declaration for multi-day fishing trip for $5.92,which will allow you to bring home up to three daily bag and possession limits of lobster. Click here to review the form. The Declaration must be received at least 48 hours prior to the date of the boat’s departure.
4. Make sure your lobster are large enough, and carry a measuring device with you
Every person while taking lobster (or other invertebrates which have a minimum size limit) must carry a device which is capable of accurately measuring the size of the lobster. Due to the curvature of the lobster’s carapace and the measurement method described above, a tape measure or ruler is not capable of measuring the size of the lobster accurately; a gauge with a fixed span works best. These are available from most dive shops and fishing tackle suppliers.
Any lobster may be brought to the surface of the water for the purpose of measuring, but no undersize lobster may be brought aboard any boat, placed in any type of receiver, kept on the person or retained in any person’s possession or under his direct control; all lobsters shall be measured immediately upon being brought to the surface of the water, and any undersize lobster shall be released immediately.
5. Don’t “tail” your lobster
Regulations state “it is unlawful to possess on any boat or bring ashore any fish upon which a size or weight limit is prescribed in such a condition that the size or weight cannot be determined.”
Separating the tail from the carapace (body) makes it impossible to determine if the lobster was of legal size; the animal must remain whole until you are ready to cook it. If cooking for immediate consumption while at sea, retain the carapace until the tail is consumed.
Taking more than your limit, keeping undersize lobster, fishing out of season, and taking them with unapproed methods (such as spearing them) can result in a hefty fine, confiscation of your dive gear, revocation of your fishing license, and in some cases, time in jail.
More importantly, poachers negatively impact the lobster populations and can ruin the season and future seasons for other divers. California lobster can take 6-8 years to grow to legal size, and they are thought to live for 50 years or more.
Lobsters are eaten by sheephead, cabezon, kelp bass, octopuses, California moray eels, horn sharks, leopard sharks, rockfshes and giant sea bass – so they already have a tough time making it to adulthood. Help preserve their populations by following all rules and regulations and help keep their populations healthy for future generations of divers.
The new spiny lobster brochure, which contains a summary of information about the new lobster report card, basic lobster fishing rules, and lobster life history information, at selected CDFW offices in coastal Southern California, or view it on the CDFW website.