FORT PIERCE, Fla. — With lobster mini season around the corner, divers and boaters aren't the only ones preparing.
Safety gear is checked and tanks are monitored at the Fort Pierce Inlet. It's here where the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office marine unit is getting ready for lobster mini season, which begins at 12:01 a.m. next Wednesday.
"Every year we have incidents that our divers and our marine units have to respond to," said Chief Deputy Brian Hester.
Hester said members of the DIVE (Underwater Search & Recovery) team will be checking on boats.
"We train once a month, the last Friday of each month," said DIVE team Deputy Rich Beany.
The chief deputy said this operation isn't so much about enforcement. It's about safety.
For some, it will be their first time in the water in a year and they may be out at night.
"Make sure you're up to par with your diving skills, depending on the type of dive you're doing and how far you’re going," said Hester.
Having the proper gear is paramount. Deputy Sean Kane showed off a device that self-inflates so you can throw it at anyone in the water.
Also, make sure that dive flag is up.
"You have to stay 100 yards away from that person, boat diving," said Hester. "If I'm a diver, I have to stay within a hundred yards of my dive flag as well."
There are also size requirements on lobsters caught.
The lobster carapace must be at least 3 inches, measured in the water, and no egg-bearing females can be harvested.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office also released a best practices for safety and success list for those looking to participate this season.
- Have the required licenses (this includes the recreational saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit, unless exempt.)
- Measure each lobster correctly, and measure while still in the water. Carapace (hard part of shell) must measure greater than three inches. Do not separate the lobster’s tail from it’s body.
- If a lobster is too small, it must not be harvested.
- Use the dive flag. Put it up when diving, and take it down when underway. Divers must stay within 300 feet of their dive flag (or 100 feet if in a channel). Flags must be 20x24.
- 12 lobsters per person per day during mini lobster season (except for Monroe County where the limit is 6).
- Check and replenish all necessary boat safety gear.
- Idle speed when within 100 yards of a boat displaying a dive flag.
- It is prohibited to touch coral, bump corals with dive fins, stand on coral and/or anchor your boat on coral.
- If diving at night, wear a strobe or night stick.
- Always dive with a buddy or let others on shore know your plans and check in with them before getting in the water and after getting out.
- Report lost divers to Coast Guard immediately.