It's lobster time: July 29 and 30 mark the two-day sport lobster season, also known as mini-season, in Florida. It's a time to get together with friends and family, get wet and get some spiny lobsters.
Mini-season is also a time to exercise extra caution, both on the water and off. An estimated 30,000 tourists flock to the Keys to partake in the annual ritual of snorkeling or diving for lobster. Our quiet islands swell with additional boats being trailered on the highway and cruising the water. Our stores fill with people getting provisions. Our restaurants swell as they cook the catches.
To all the locals, have a heightened awareness of visitors sharing the water with you. Be courteous and give them extra space. Watch for boaters not familiar with our waters and divers drifting too far from their boats.
On land, be prepared to wait a bit for service at your favorite watering hole or stand in line a tad longer at the grocery store. Slow your pace on U.S. 1 to make way for campers and trucks pulling boat trailers.
Every day is a time to observe the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations. But during mini-season, it is particularly important to familiarize yourself with the regulations that pertain specifically to Monroe County and even to certain local areas within the county.
A complete explanation of the regulations is available on the FWC website, www.myfec.com. In addition, copies of the Monroe County lobster brochure, a summary of local rules on lobstering and no-dive nearshore waters, are available at most dive and tackle shops. Marine officers with the FWC, Monroe County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Coast Guard will be out in force for the sport days, supplemented by extra officers and a lobster-sniffing dog.
Once the lobster hoopla dies down and you're ready to get back to fishing on Friday, head out to the humps for what's been a fairly consistent blackfin tuna bite for fish in the five- to 10-pound class.
Dolphin fishing has been hit or miss, and you can go from hero to zero on a day-by-day basis. Some days are outstanding with plenty of schoolies and gaffers for the taking. And the very next day, you can't find a single fish.
We have a full moon coming up on Friday, which usually bodes well for the wahoo bite. So when you're offshore and you find a giant clump of weeds, spend a little extra time looking for the 'hoos.
On the reef, fishing for yellowtail and mangrove snapper remains excellent in the 40- to 60-foot depths. And we're still getting the occasional keeper grouper.
Capt. Chris Johnson specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, reef/wreck, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters in Marathon. You can reach him at (305) 743-5305, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.