The 2023-2024 recreational spiny lobster season will start at 6 p.m. Sept. 29 and run through March 20, 2024. This start time is 12 hours earlier than prior years. The recreational season will now open each year at 6 p.m. on the Friday before the first Wednesday in October. It will close at 11:59 p.m. on the first Wednesday after Mar. 15. This season structure aims to ensure sustainable lobster populations and aligns with the lobsters’ molting and breeding cycles.
The spiny lobster fishery occurs in the Southern California Bight, ranging from Point Conception to the U.S.-Mexico border, including areas surrounding the offshore Channel Islands. Spiny lobster fishing is only allowed in districts 18, 19, 20 and 20A.
Fishing effort is highest and closest to shore during the first half of the lobster season from October to December, when fishermen generally set their traps inside 10 fathoms. As the season progresses, water cools nearshore, and winter storms cause lobster to move offshore. Fishermen respond to this movement by setting their traps in deeper water, reaching as deep as 40 fathoms. Typically, 80% of the season’s total landings are made before the end of January; some fishermen pull their traps and stop fishing then.
California spiny lobsters are harvested by means of lobster traps. Most traps are constructed of rectangular mesh not less than 1 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches. Each trap has to have a rigid rectangular escape gap with inside measurements not less than 2 ⅜ inches by 11 ½ inches for undersized individuals to escape. Traps must have 2 ⅜-inches openings the length of the two sides of the trap and not more than 2 ⅜ inches above and parallel to the floor of the trap. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), traps must include a “destruct device.” Lobster traps are generally set individually and must have a buoy attached to each of them to identify that specific trap. Additionally, the buoy must contain the permit holder’s commercial fishing license identification number followed by the letter “P.”
Please note that regulations can change, so verifying the current season dates and regulations with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) or other official sources is essential to obtain the most up-to-date and accurate information before planning any lobster-fishing activities. Additionally, local regulations and marine protected areas may have specific rules and restrictions related to lobster fishing, so always check those as well to comply with the law and contribute to sustainable fishing practices.