kwadlow@keynoter.com

Posted – Saturday, July 28, 2012 11:01 AM EDT

Mini-season: Slow but steady and no fatalities

kwadlow@keynoter.com

This huge lobster – the cooler lid is 48 inches long – was caught Thursday near Tom's Harbor Cut in Marathon. The two-day mini lobster season ended Thursday with no serious accidents in Keys waters. Photo courtesy of Monroe County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Dennis Coleman.

 

 

One statistic stands out from this week's two-day lobster sport season: Nobody died.

"It was a very safe mini-season so everybody is happy about that," said Corey Embree, diving operations manager at Inner Space Dive Center on Big Pine Key.

The sport-diving time Wednesday and Thursday drew tens of thousands of lobster-seekers who crowded local dive shops, boat ramps and marinas.

"I was filling [dive] tanks all Wednesday night until 5 a.m." Thursday, said Eric Billips, operations manager at Keys Dives in Islamorada.

"There were 20 people in the shop at 2 a.m. It was surreal," Billips said.

A handful of arrests were made for conservation violations during the two days, but that counts as a "slow but steady" mini-season, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Bobby Dube said.

"All in all, it was a successful 48 hours of madness," Dube said.

Most violations involved taking undersized or too many lobster. No count of violations was available at press time.

Lobster activity peaked on Wednesday's first day but dropped off noticeably Thursday despite superb conditions, Dube said. "Maybe every got their limit early and headed home."

Divers arrived early this year and stayed late, Bob Roney, owner of Capt. Hook's Marina in Marathon, said Friday.

"It's still busy. It's been a phenomenal four to six days, the best I've seen in my eight years here," Roney said.

Capt. Hook's sold out its rental fleet and booked its dive charters, Roney said. "Most people said they were limiting out," Roney said of the six lobster per person, per day, bag limit.

"We saw some big lobster, 2 and 3 pounds, come in," Roney said.

Embree said Lower Keys divers delivered "mixed reports…Some people had their limit within hours. Others said there weren't that many lobster out there."

Calm and clear weather satisfied many divers, Billips said. "Last year was windy and gnarly. This year people had a good time on the water even if they didn't get their limit."