Recreational lobster season runs from 6:00 a.m. on the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October through the first Wednesday after the 15th of March. Here are the dates for the next 2 seasons:
- Saturday, September 30, 2017 through Wednesday, March 21, 2018
- Saturday, September 29, 2018 through Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Reference Section 29.90(a) T14, CCR.
Recreational lobster season opens at 6:00 a.m. on the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday of October and closes at 12:00 a.m. on the first Wednesday (night) after the 15th of March.
According to CCR T14, Section 29.90(b), the daily recreational bag limit is seven lobsters per person. Additionally, Section 1.17 states that no more than one daily bag limit may be taken or possessed by any one person unless otherwise authorized (see Declaration for Multi-Day Fishing Trip, Section 27.15 T14, CCR), regardless of whether they are fresh, frozen or otherwise preserved. This means that if you have a limit of seven lobsters at home, you cannot go out and get more lobsters until the first limit is disposed of in some way (eaten, given away, etc).
The minimum size limit for California spiny lobster is three and one-fourth inches, measured in a straight line on the midline of the back from the rear edge of the eye socket to the rear edge of the body shell.
View a lobster measurement diagram online.
Reference Section 29.90(c) Title 14, California Code of Regulations (CCR).
Every person while taking lobster (or other invertebrates which have a minimum size limit) shall carry a device which is capable of accurately measuring the size of the lobster. Due to the curvature of the lobster's carapace and the measurement method described above, a tape measure or ruler is not capable of measuring the size of the lobster accurately; a gauge with a fixed span works best. Reference Section 29.05(c) T14, CCR.
All lobsters shall be measured immediately and any undersize lobster shall be released immediately into the water. Divers shall measure lobsters while in the water and shall not remove undersized lobsters from the water. Hoop netters may measure lobsters out of the water, but no undersize lobster may be placed in any type of receiver, kept on the person or retained in any person's possession or under his or her direct control. Reference Section 29.90(c) T14, CCR.
No. Spiny lobsters shall be kept in a whole, measurable condition, until being prepared for immediate consumption. Reference CCR T14, Section 29.90(e)
According to CCR T14, Section 29.80(a) and (b), spiny lobster may only be taken by hand or by hoop net. You cannot use any other devices to take or assist in taking lobster - this includes "tickle sticks" or other similar appliances used to coax a lobster from its hiding spot. For the legal definition of a hoop net, see CCR T14, Section 29.80(b)(1)in the annual California Ocean Fishing Sport Fishing regulation booklet.
No. As stated above, lobsters may only be taken by hand or by hoop net - traps may not be used. Lobsters that are taken incidentally on hook and line while fishing for finfish must be returned to the sea immediately. For the legal definition of a hoop net, see CCR T14, Section 29.80(b)(1) in the annual California Ocean Fishing Sport Fishing regulation booklet.
According to CCR T14, Section 29.80(b) not more than 5 baited hoop nets may be fished by a person, not to exceed a total of 10 hoop nets fished from any vessel, regardless of how many people are aboard.
You may use up to two appliances (rod and reel, hoop net, etc.) while fishing from a public pier - two rods and reels, or 1 rod and reel and 1 hoop net, or 2 hoop nets. Reference CCR T14, Section 28.65(b)
Persons taking or trying to take lobster are required to possess, fill out and submit spiny lobster report cards starting September 27, 2008.
The 2017-2018 spiny lobster report card costs $9.22 when purchased from CDFW offices, and $9.46 when purchased from other vendors.
The spiny lobster report card should be available wherever you purchase your sport fishing license, including most tackle shops and some sporting goods stores, however some license agents may choose not to sell the card. You can also purchase spiny lobster report cards online.
An online list of CDFW license sales offices is also available.
The purpose of the reporting requirement is to monitor recreational spiny lobster catch, fishing effort and the gear used in the recreational fishery. Although CDFW has considerable information about the commercial lobster fishery from landing receipts and logbooks, CDFW has very little reliable information on the magnitude of the recreational lobster catch and fishing effort.
Yes, if they are fishing for, taking, or assisting with fishing for spiny lobster.
No. Unlike abalone and sturgeon report cards, there is currently no limit on the number of lobster report cards one can purchase. Cards must be in the card user's name.
If purchasing cards for children under 16, provide the parent's ID, but children's names should be on their own cards. To purchase a license or report card for an adult who is not present, provide any previous license or other official document issued to the licensee, or the recipient's personal information (name, DOB, CDL or other ID number, etc).
Yes. All individuals must have a spiny lobster report card in their possession while fishing for or taking lobster, or assisting in fishing for lobster, including children under the age of 16. In the case of a person diving from a boat, the report card may be kept in the boat. In the case of a person diving from the shore, the report card may be kept within 500 yards from the point of entry.
Instructions can be found on the card. Record the month, day, location, and gear code on the first available line on the card. When you are done fishing at that location, when you switch gear, or when you are done fishing for the day, record the number of lobster kept, then move to the next available line on the card. Use separate lines on the card for each location fished and each gear type used.
You can report online. 2016-17 full season cards are due back to CDFW by April 30, 2017, and can be reported online or mailed to the address below. There is a $21.60 non-return fee. Fishermen can avoid the non-return fee by returning their cards by the due date, or by sitting out one fishing season.
Lobster report cards can also be dropped off or mailed to the address specified on the report card by the deadline, which is also specified on the card:
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Lobster Report Card
3883 Ruffin Rd.
San Diego, CA 92123
If you choose to submit your report card online, a successful report generates a confirmation code. Also, if you have an email address on file with CDFW, you will receive a confirmation email, whether you report online or you mail your card and it is entered by CDFW staff.
The funds can be used to support any CDFW project, including those specifically focused on lobster.
You may want to check with local authorities (for example, the harbormaster in the area where you wish to take lobster) regarding any additional restrictions on lobster fishing in harbors, etc. Local authorities have the right to restrict certain activities in these areas in the interest of public safety. Such authorities cannot impose rules that are more lenient than state fishing regulations, but they may impose more stringent restrictions regarding access, for example, in certain high traffic areas if they have concerns about the public's well being caused by fishing activity in a given area.
If you're not fishing for spiny lobster, you do not need to purchase a spiny lobster report card. By the same token, if you catch spiny lobster while fishing for rock crab, you cannot keep spiny lobster if you do not have a spiny lobster report card in your possession.
It is legal to carry hoop nets and scuba gear aboard your kayak when hunting for spiny lobster south of Yankee Pt. (Monterey County). Section 29.05(d) prohibits the use of scuba north of Yankee Pt. for all invertebrates except sea urchins, rock scallops and crabs of the genus Cancer. South of Yankee Pt. you can use and possess scuba gear and hoop nets simultaneously on your kayak when hunting lobster.
While scuba gear is not illegal to carry aboard a kayak, remember that it is currently illegal to use or possess any hooked devices while diving or attempting to dive for crustaceans. Divers may be in possession of spearfishing equipment so long as possession of such equipment is otherwise lawful and is not being used to aid in the take of crustaceans, including lobster.
Until you get the lobster home, your son will need to be in the immediate vicinity of his catch, so that if a warden stops you, your son's spiny lobster can be attributed to him via his spiny lobster report card (he must carry his report card). As long as you're together, there's nothing wrong with carrying his lobster for him.
For example, you and your son go hoop netting from a pier and have a cooler in which you place your combined spiny lobster catch. When you're done hoop netting you carry the cooler off the pier with your son walking next to you. You are stopped by a warden to whom you show your catch and both of your cards. Because two persons with two filled-out spiny lobster report cards are present to account for two limits of spiny lobster (it was a great night for hoop netting "bugs"!), the warden can see that you are following regulations, even though only one person is carrying all the lobster.
To be "in possession" of his catch, your son needs to be in the immediate vicinity -- walking down the pier with you, traveling home together in the car, etc., with the spiny lobster he caught fully accounted for on his spiny lobster report card.
You can find the new "Reporting Your Catch" brochure, which contains a summary of information about the new lobster report card as well as lobster fishery management, at select CDFW offices in coastal Southern California and online
. Another brochure detailing California spiny lobster biology, regulations, and fishing is also available online
It is believed California spiny lobsters live 50 years or more. There are records of male California spiny lobster weighing over 26 pounds and attaining lengths up to three feet. Today, lobsters over five pounds are considered trophy-sized. More information on spiny lobster biology is available online.
There are various programs that have tagged lobsters in southern California. A unique identification code (tag number) and phone number (or website) can be found printed on most tags, which are usually small colored strips of plastic inserted into the underside or back of the lobster. Researchers are interested in learning about the movement and growth of individual lobsters. It is important to record the date, location where the lobster was caught (GPS coordinates are best, but distance to a recognized landmark will work if you don't have a GPS), as well as the carapace length of the lobster (to the nearest millimeter if possible), and the tag number. All four pieces of information: date, location, length, and tag number, are important when reporting a tagged lobster.
In 2011 and 2012, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, San Diego Oceans Foundation, San Diego State University and Scripps Institution of Oceanography teamed with lobster fishermen and volunteers to collaborate on a project to tag and monitor thousands of lobster in southern California. Reporting tagged lobsters will assist this study in examining current levels of lobster abundance, size composition of the population, and movement and growth of individuals over time. For more information, or to report a lobster tagged with a blue, yellow, or green tag, please visit: www.taggedlobster.com.
Lobsters may be brought to the surface to measure. If the lobster is under legal size and is tagged, quickly record the number on the tag and immediately release the lobster. No undersize lobster, even if it is tagged, may be brought aboard a boat, placed in any type of receiver, or retained in any manner. Do not remove tags from any short lobsters.