Commercial trap fishermen welcome this 2010-11 season with big smiles and great expectations as they prepare for what they hope will be a repeat of last season.
"We can never be sure but every indication is that this could be an exceptional season," said Bill Kelly, executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association.
There are approximately 650 commercial lobster licenses holders in Monroe County that will begin laying trap lines Monday morning for the soak period shortly preceding the annual Aug. 6 opening of the eight-month commercial and recreational season for spiny lobster.
According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute the 2010-11 season marked an upsurge in harvests due to a sudden demand from China and Asia. Florida alone yielded about 5.6 million pounds of spiny lobster and of that 5 million pounds came from the Keys alone.
"Our early scouting reports suggest this has the potential to be as good a harvest as last year or even better," Kelly said. "We expect continued strong demand from China."
The high demand from China and Asia which are good for the fishermen may not be so great for the locals because it has caused a spike in dockside prices. Wholesale dockside prices averaged more than $6 a pound for iced lobster and have reached over $12 per pound for live lobster.
"When fishermen are getting more than double what they were, it gives them a reason to catch more," Stock Island Lobster Co. owner Peter Bacle said as last season.
Although there may be more lobsters to catch the daily bag limits for recreational lobster hunters remains the same at 6 lobster per day and unlike mini-season, night diving is allowed. Fishermen also must have a saltwater fishing license with lobster endorsement; however a new Monroe County law bans diving or snorkeling within 300 feet of many shorelines during the first five days of regular season.
Every county has different regulations and amateur fishermen should check with state officials for fishing rules and regulations.