Recreational lobster season opens at 6:00 a.m. on the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October and closes at 12:00 a.m. on the first Wednesday (night) after the 15th of March.
Reference Section 29.90(a) Title 14, California Code of Regulations (CCR).
The minimum size limit for California spiny lobster is three and one-fourth inches (3 1/4"), 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 (PDF).
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 must be measured immediately and any undersize lobster must be released immediately into the water. Divers must measure lobsters while in the water and undersize lobsters cannot be removed 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.
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 California Saltwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.
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.
Your data help us track the recreational spiny lobster catch, fishing effort and the gear used in the recreational fishery. Unlike commercial catch, CDFW had very little reliable information on the magnitude of the recreational lobster catch and fishing effort prior to the lobster report card.
Yes, if they are fishing for, taking, or assisting with fishing for spiny lobster.
No. Unlike abalone and sturgeon report cards, there is no limit on the number of lobster report cards you can purchase. Cards must be in the card user's name. Remember to report all cards purchased to avoid the non-return fee the following season.
Children under the age of 16 must also have their own report cards, and a parent’s ID must be provided during purchase. 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).
You can find instructions 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(s) 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.
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.
Lobster report cards can be dropped off or mailed to the address specified on the report card by April 30 after each season:
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Lobster Report Card
3883 Ruffin Rd.
San Diego, CA 92123
You can also report online at: Licenses and Permits page
If your card is not reported OR reported late, you will be required to pay a non-return fee when you purchase your card for the following season. You can avoid the non-return fee by returning lobster report cards by the due date, or by sitting out one lobster fishing season.
Current Open and Closed Waters for the Spiny Lobster Fishery Current fishery closure and health advisory information due to domoic acid
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.
You do not need to purchase a spiny lobster report card if you are not fishing for lobster. 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.
According to CCR T14, Section 29.90(b), the daily recreational bag limit and possession limit are seven lobsters per person. , 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). You may obtain authorization for possessing more lobsters than the possession limit (see Declaration for Multi-Day Fishing Trip, Section 27.15 T14, CCR).
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.
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 California Saltwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.
According to CCR T14, Section 29.80(b) you can possess at most 5 hoop nets when taking spiny lobster or crab, not to exceed a total of 10 hoop nets per vessel.
You may use up to two hoop nets while fishing from a public pier. Reference CCR T14, Section 28.65(b)
No. Spiny lobsters shall be kept in a whole, measurable condition, until being prepared for immediate consumption. Reference CCR T14, Section 29.90(e)
The lobster season start and end dates were carefully chosen with spawning in mind. The season opens after the majority of lobsters have already spawned, and the season closes before the stock moves back into shallow water to repeat the cycle all over again. While it is true that a few lobsters with eggs are caught each year, the season provides more than ample protection for spawning lobsters.
The idea of a slot limit was carefully analyzed during the Lobster Advisory Committee process while writing the California Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan, and the benefits of a slot limit would not be as great as one might think. Natural mortality in lobsters, even excluding fishing take is very high. The health of our lobster stock is really dependent on sexually mature sub-legal sized lobsters. The current size limit was selected to allow lobsters to spawn 1-3 times before reaching legal size. Female lobsters grow slower than males because they put more energy into egg production. Poaching sub-legal sized lobsters has been identified as probably the greatest potential threat to the lobster stock. Most of the truly large lobsters are males and releasing them doesn’t have the same reproductive benefits as protecting the sub-legal spawners. Sub-legal sized lobsters are truly the engines of sustainability for this fishery.
CDFW is mandated by law to allow for the sustainable use of lobster by both the commercial and recreational fishing sectors. While our laws say that recreational fishermen are entitled to harvest for sport (and not subsistence use), commercial fishermen must make a living off the resource. The commercial lobster industry is highly regulated, with a fixed number of permits, and commercial fishermen are required to use traps with strict regulations concerning mesh size and escape ports that allow large numbers of sub-legal sized lobsters to come and go freely from traps. Recreational lobster fishing is a sport activity not meant for subsistence. CDFW would like recreational users to enjoy this resource. The number of recreational participants is not restricted, and hoop nets and diving are both very effective methods of recreational take. Finally, there are large productive areas that are closed to commercial lobster fishing but open to recreational lobster fishing, such as Santa Monica Bay, San Pedro Bay, San Diego Bay, the lee side of Catalina Island, and many bays and jetties.
If you are selling your catch, you are fishing commercially.