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U.S. Federal and State Lobster Laws – Size, Season, and Bag Limits

[Page updated 29 January 2021]

Spiny lobster (Panulirus argus), also often called Caribbean Lobster, are delicious food and can range from about one pound up to ten pounds or even more. Lobster harvesting is strictly regulated in most areas so we can keep this a renewable resource that can go on indefinitely. Each state has their own lobstering laws, and we detail those for you below. Laws sometimes change mid-season. Please check back often. Here is our How to Catch Spiny Lobster page.

A big Florida spiny lobster on the Atlantic ocean floor.
Spiny Lobster – Panulirus argu.

Follow the guidelines below to learn HOW MANY Lobsters Can you Keep and WHEN can you Harvest them?

Lobstering in U.S. Federal Waters

Laws for harvesting spiny lobster in federally controlled waters (3-miles or more farther from the coast, and past the state limits include allowances for harvesting two spiny lobsters per day per individual. There also is a minimum-size limit of 3 inches, and any lobster with eggs must be released immediately.

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Alabama State Spiny Lobster Laws

We looked for 40 minutes to find information about lobster laws in Alabama and couldn’t find anything. I wasn’t sure why, so I wrote them. Here’s the reply. Basically, they don’t have any Spiny Lobsters.

Mr. Lovic,

We do not have spiny lobster in or near our state waters so we do not have any regulations addressing that species.  If you have questions about other species and you have a smart phone I would suggest downloading the Fish Rules App.  It is a great one-stop location for state and federal regulations for Marine species and the spiny lobster rules for FL are on there.  It is a free app and has a dark colored grouper outline over a lighter blue background in the logo. https://fishrulesapp.com/

I hope this is helpful and if we can help you enjoy the great outdoors in Alabama in any other way please let us know.

Colonel Scott Bannon
Director, Marine Resources Division
Outdooralabama.com

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Florida State Spiny Lobster Laws

First, start with getting a Florida Saltwater Fishing License.

You also need a lobster permit. You can find information about that here.

Daily Harvesting Limit: 6 per person per day during the regular season (August 6 to March 31st). 6 per person per day during Sport Season (28-29 July in 2021) in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park. Harvesting of 12 lobsters per person per day in all other Florida areas during Sport Season.

Minimum size: Carapace must measure at least 3″ in the water.

  1. You must have a measuring tool with you, and use it when harvesting lobster.
Guide for measuring spiny lobster carapace in Florida.
Measure from area where tail meets carapace, up to and between the eyes where the carapace ends.

Spiny Lobster Season Season: 2 Day “Sport Season” is 28-29 July, 2021. Regular season is August 6 through March 31st each year.

Lobstering is PROHIBITED in these areas during Regular Lobster Season AND the 2-Day Sport Season

Lobstering is Prohibited in these areas during the 2-Day Sport Season (allowed in Regular Season)

  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
  • Night diving in Monroe County

Other Prohibited Activities

  1. Trapping, spearing, gigging, and crushing lobsters is prohibited.
  2. Lobsters must be landed in whole condition, not separating the tail from the body, or any part of the body.
  3. Taking egg-bearing (berried) lobsters is prohibited (see image below).
  4. 2 licenses are needed to harvest spiny lobster (see info page here).
    A. Florida Recreational Saltwater Fishing License.
    B. Lobster permit (stamp).
  5. It is against the law to give your harvest to any other person, licensed or not, for purposes of harvesting more lobster.

Spiny Lobster with Eggs (Illegal to harvest)

Spiny lobster eggs. It is illegal to harvest any lobster with eggs. it must be released unharmed.
Spiny lobster eggs are orange and are under the tail.

Here’s a chart to make the Florida Lobstering Season easier to understand:

Chart of Lobstering Laws in Florida for 2021-2022.

During April to July, lobsters are mating. There may be eggs under the tail during Regular or Sport Seasons. Do be careful to look. The fines are high!

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Georgia State Lobster Laws

In Georgia, spiny lobsters are very rarely found in shallow water near the coast. It’s necessary to catch them in water around 75 feet deep, or deeper. That puts it out of reach of most anglers, but also divers as that is quite a deep dive. I read about a teen who found some lobster in 100 feet of water and that was the first he’d seen in 4 years of diving around Georgia. So, Georgia is NOT the place to go catch some lobsters! If you’re anxious to try anyway, you’ll need to head out into federal waters (past 3 miles).

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Louisiana State Lobster Laws

Like Alabama, there appears to be no information about spiny lobster season or restrictions in the state of Louisiana.

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Mississippi State Lobster Laws

It’s safe to say that people are not flocking to Mississippi for their amazing lobstering seasons. They also have no information regarding state laws and bag limits. It’s assumed that to catch lobster you’d need to go out beyond the 3 mile state water limit into federal territory to find lobsters, then you can use the guide at the top of the page for regulations.

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North Carolina State Redfish Laws

Recreational harvesting of spiny lobster is permitted year round in North Carolina. Here is a PDF for all fishing regulations for 2021. Click here to download.

Daily Limit: 2

Minimum size: 3″ minimum carapace length.

Spiny Lobster Season: Open all year.

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South Carolina State Redfish Laws

Daily Limit: 2

Minimum size: 3″ minimum carapace length

Spiny Lobster Season: Open all year.

Prohibited Activities

  1. While harvesting spiny lobsters “berried females” (those with orange eggs under the tail) must be released immediately, and unharmed.
  2. Spiny lobster tails must not be removed while at sea.
  3. Methods of harvesting may not include spears or other piercing devices (arrows, etc.), poisons, or explosives. Only fishing hooks and grabbing are permitted.
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Texas State Lobster Laws

Texas is another state that has no published laws regarding taking spiny lobsters in state waters. In US waters, the regulations above apply.

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