2 die in Florida Keys on first day of lobster miniseason


The 48-hour miniseason for Florida's spiny lobster opened today as S. Floridians headed out to take advantage of the abbreviated annual event along the Sunshine State's coastline on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.

The 48-hour miniseason for Florida’s spiny lobster opened today as S. Floridians headed out to take advantage of the abbreviated annual event along the Sunshine State’s coastline on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.

cjuste@miamiherald.com

Two people died in Keys waters on Wednesday as Florida’s lobster miniseason got underway.

A 51-year-old Tampa man died after losing consciousness just north of Key West at about 12:30 pm while snorkeling off a boat, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said.

He became unresponsive near Bluefish Channel. People in the boat began CPR until the Coast Guard arrived. He was taken to Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West, where he died. The man’s name won’t be released until his family is notified.

Also on Wednesday afternoon, a 64-year-old Garland, Texas, man died after collapsing in a boat on the Gulf side just north of mile marker 3.

Gregg Leon Dietz was standing in a 32-foot Fun in the Sun rental when he collapsed at about 12:30 pm The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission took Dietz to US Coast Guard Station Key West. He later died at Lower Keys Medical Center.

Neither death is considered to be suspicious and the investigations are still open, said Adam Linhardt, the sheriff’s office spokesman.

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Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Upper Keys Detectives Jose Hernandez on July 27, 2022, during the state’s annual lobster miniseason, found a person lobstering in the restricted area of ​​John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park who also possessed an undersized lobster. The person was cited for the violations. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office

Miniseason draws thousands of people to the Florida Keys and other coastal spots in the Sunshine State to grab their share of spiny lobster. It’s got that holiday festive feel for boaters and divers, capped off with an obvious choice for dinner.

But over the years, the two-day event has kept cops busy in handling crowds, investigating accidents and making arrests.

“It’s crowded,” Jason Rafter, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said Wednesday morning.

“We are out in full force,” Rafter said. “From Key Largo to Key West, we are on it.”

READ MORE: You can catch your own lobster dinner in Florida — but there are rules you should know

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Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Upper Keys Detective Sgt. Nick Whiteman and Detective Matt O’Neill check a lobster catch on July 27, 2022. In this case, these anglers had expired flares and were only given a warning. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office

As of Wednesday evening, no deaths on the water had been reported in Miami, according to representatives with the city of Miami and the city of Miami Beach.

Florida’s lobster miniseason unfolds every year during the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July. The event allows people to hit the water and take their legal limit of spiny lobster ahead of the regular season, which runs Aug. 6 through March 31.

In the Florida Keys, the bag limit is six per person, per boat. The same limit applies to lobstering within Biscayne National Park in Miami-Dade County. For the rest of Miami-Dade and the rest of the state, the bag limit is 12 lobster per person, per boat.

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Kendall resident Luis Rodriguez lays out his catch (24 lobsters) after the lobsters were cleaned and beheaded at Matheson Hammock Marina on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. Carl Juste cjuste@miamiherald.com

Not the best weather

Lobster miniseason opened Wednesday morning with some murky water and windy conditions in South Florida.

Still, people set out early even in the not-so-ideal early weather. But conditions improved as the day unfolded.

“It took us an hour longer this year, they were a little harder to catch,” said Blake Guillory, 33, of Naples, Florida, on Wednesday after his crew bagged their limit of 12 lobster per person. There were six people on the hunt.

By 7 am Wednesday, Guillory’s group was north of Biscayne Bay on a center console. They spent about four hours hunting spiny lobster.

Guillory caught one that he decided to preserve as a trophy: a six or seven-pound lobster that he took to a taxidermist.

Not everyone cares for the taste of the bigger bugs.

“I would still eat it,” he said, with a laugh.

Snorkeling deaths before the event

Before this year’s miniseason opened, at 12:01 am Wednesday, two men had died after snorkeling, the FWC said.

A 27-year-old Port Orange man, who hasn’t been identified by authorities, was pulled from the water Monday, with the agency initially saying it was a fatal boating accident and that the man had suffered head trauma. On Tuesday, a 53-year-old man from Englewood, Florida, died after feeling ill while snorkeling in Sawyer Channel.

FWC isn’t the only agency keeping watch over the catches this week. The Coast Guard and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office are also checking boats to ensure lobster hunters are in compliance with the rules. And Miami-Dade Fire Rescue has been busy on Twitter reminding people about safety.

During miniseason the Monroe sheriff’s office fills its Facebook feed with photos of their officers doing routine checks on the water.

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The annual lobster miniseason runs from 12:01 am on July 27 through midnight July 28. Courtesy of Steve Waters

The Florida Legislature approved miniseason in 1974 to ease conflict between recreational anglers and commercial trappers before the regular season started.

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Kendall residents Luis Rodriguez, 35, left, Cameron Ammons, 10, and Rodriguez’s sons Alexander, 17, and Kristopher, 10, and friend Donald Monsalvatge, 63, get a close look at their catch (24 lobsters) after the lobsters were cleaned and beheaded at Matheson Hammock Marina on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. Carl Juste cjuste@miamiherald.com

mid lobsterniseason rules

Miniseason comes with a host of rules. In the Keys, police are known to jail people for taking undersized lobster.

  • Anglers must have on them a gauge to measure lobster, which must be measured in the water if they are harvested while diving or snorkeling.
  • The carapace, which is the body and head of the lobster — basically the part that is not the tail — must be greater than three inches long.
  • Tails must measure more than 5 1/2 inches long. Lobsters must be brought to shore whole.
  • Only once on shore can the tail and carapace be separated.
  • All undersized lobster must be returned alive and unharmed to the water.
  • No egg-bearing female lobster can be harvested.
  • You can’t spear or use any other tool that can pierce or break the lobster’s shell anywhere in Florida.
  • In the Florida Keys and adjacent federal waters, there is no diving or snorkeling at night.
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Pembroke Pines resident Santiago Figueroa, 31, a biochemical engineer, holds two lobsters his crew caught as he and other boaters returned to Matheson Hammock Marina with their catch. The 48-hour miniseason for Florida’s spiny lobster opened Wednesday, July 27, 2022 as S. Floridians headed out to take advantage of the abbreviated annual event along the Sunshine State’s coastline. Carl Just cjuste@miamiherald.com

This story was originally published July 27, 2022 11:31 AM.

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Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.

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