For the adventurous type in San Diego, spiny lobster season means a chance for a fresh lobster caught while snorkeling. Here’s what you need to know to take advantage of the spiny lobster season in San Diego.
Why are they called spiny lobsters?
The lobsters found off the San Diego coast are different from those on the east coast that are often seen on restaurant menus. They are a bit sturdier and have fleshy tails without claw meat (lobsters do not have claws). However, you can still prepare them any way you want once you take them home, like a Maine lobster. San Diegans who love to grill may find it fun to take advantage of the warm winter months and leave their lobster on the barbecue. Steaming and sautéing also works well for cooking the delicate spiny lobster meat.
What will you need
Every year from the Saturday just before the first Wednesday in October to the Wednesday immediately after March 15, lobster fishing is permitted in San Diego. For those who want to try it, they must obtain a license that gives them permission to dive under the sea and catch these delicious creatures.
The license you need is a California standard catch with added ocean enhancement validation. Lobster season fishing licenses can be obtained through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Never go fishing without this license as you will have to display it on site to avoid fines – plan to keep it in your boat or with your gear on shore, as long as you are within 500 feet of your point of entry into the water while diving.
Rules for catching spiny lobster
There are strict rules on how to catch lobster and how much lobster you can bring from the ocean with you.
First of all, you can only catch the lobster with your hands. Nets, spears or other tools are not allowed. Unless you have especially tough hands, you probably want to invest in some diving gloves to protect your soft fingers from the sharp shell of the lobster.
Second, the lobsters you catch must be of a certain length. This gives the baby lobsters the opportunity to grow into adult lobsters and spawn and continue the population each year. Spiny lobsters need to be at least 3.25 inches from the eye socket to the back end of the shell (the area of the lobster just before that juicy tail) in order to catch. You can measure this efficiently with a pre-marked meter that is sold in most San Diego fishing stores. You’ll want to make the measurement as easy as possible, as it needs to be done while you and the lobster are still in the water.
Measurement on land is not allowed.
Third, you can only catch lobster that you plan to eat. According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, lobster must be kept in complete and measurable condition until ready for immediate consumption. That means you must have a refrigerator or other storage facility waiting on shore to transport the lobsters.
You are only allowed to catch seven Spiny Lobsters in one outing while diving in San Diego. You must document this on a spiny lobster report card that you receive from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Keep this report card with your fishing license in case officials ask you to show it after diving.