The two-day lobster mini-season, set for Wednesday and Thursday, gives recreational divers their annual chance to harvest spiny lobsters before the commercial season begins.
Divers throughout the state flock to coastal waters to chase "bugs" during the two-day sport season, an annual tradition for some families.
But with the fun comes risk, especially for those who might not be in shape for diving.
A 60-year-old man died after a dive east of Jupiter on the second day of last year's mini-season. He complained of feeling ill after surfacing from the dive and died later of unspecified medical problems.
In years past, divers participating in the sport season have died of heart attacks and other medical problems. They've been hit by boats and have drifted away in the current, triggering ocean searches by the Coast Guard.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking boaters to be keenly aware of red-and-white diver-down flags during the lobster mini-season. Florida law requires boaters to make every attempt to stay 300 feet away from dive flags in open water and 100 feet away in rivers, inlets and navigation channels.
The FWC also will be looking for divers who decide to harvest spiny lobsters before the sport season officially begins at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
"They're already out there enforcing," said Gabriella Ferraro, spokeswoman for the FWC's South Region office in West Palm Beach. "Anything out of the season will not be tolerated."
To be legal, lobsters must have a carapace, or head section, of at least 3 inches. Lobsters must be measured in the water and brought ashore whole. No egg-bearing lobster may be taken.
The sport-season daily bag limit is 12 lobsters per person, except in the Florida Keys and Biscayne National Park, where the sport-season limit is six. A saltwater fishing license with a lobster permit is required, unless divers are under 16, over 65 or otherwise exempt.
Craig Smart, captain of the Starfish Enterprise dive boat in Boynton Beach, said he is booked for the sport season and expects law enforcement officers to be out in full force.
"I fully expect to get stopped at some point," Smart said.
Dive boat captain Randy Jordan of Emerald Charters in Tequesta said every dive boat he knows of is booked for the sport season. Only one thing is missing: lobsters.
"I haven't seen many," Jordan said. "I don't know where they are. Maybe they'll all sneak up at once."
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