Lionfish add a new wrinkle in rules for the 2015 lobster mini-season Wednesday and Thursday.
In the one significant change to traditional lobster rules for the sport season, divers who harvest 10 lionfish will be allowed to take one -- and only one -- extra lobster per day. A diver normally can take six lobster per day. That increases to seven lobster -- providing he or she already has 10 lionfish on board.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved the bonus bug as a 2015 test to interest divers in taking lionfish, an unwanted exotic species that threatens native fish populations.
"It's an attempt to think outside the box and try something different to get rid of lionfish," said FWC Officer Bobby Dube.
A diver must catch another 10 lionfish Thursday to take a second extra lobster. People leaving the Keys with 14 lobster after mini-season (rather than the normal two-day limit of 12) will be required to have a photo of themselves with their lionfish harvests.
Regardless of how many lionfish are taken on each day, only one extra lobster is allowed per day.
The Florida Keys have other local rules for mini-season, including no diving or snorkeling near shore in most areas.
Snorkeling and diving rules apply on Wednesday and Thursday but have additional days before and after mini-season by jurisdiction.
Generally, the mini-season nearshore rules ban use of a mask and snorkel within 300 feet of improved residential or commercial shoreline, any manmade or private canal, and any public or private marina.
Effective days by jurisdiction:
- Marathon: Wednesday and Thursday only.
- Key Colony Beach: Four days preceding mini-season through mini-season season until 10 days after the Aug. 6 opening of regular season.
- Islamorada: Three days preceding mini-season plus mini-season; and the first five days of regular season.
- Unincorporated Monroe County and Layton: Three days preceding mini-season, plus mini-season, and the first five days of regular season. Certain exemptions apply to property owners on canals and open water.