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9 FAQs About Lobster Diving on Catalina Island

Updated: Sep 25



Of all the ocean’s invertebrates, the California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus) is pretty popular (and delicious). It’s common to find these prickly creatures along the Pacific Coast from Point Conception near Santa Barbara to Magdalena Bay in Mexico. Catalina Island is a prime spot to find California spiny lobster, and diving on Catalina is one of the best ways to seek out these invertebrates who happen to be a local delicacy. Here are 9 FAQs about lobster diving on Catalina Island:


1.) When is lobster season? Recreational lobster season opens at 6:00 a.m. on the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October. For 2022, that means October 1st. The season closes at 12:00 a.m. on the first Wednesday after the 15th of March.


2.) What are lobster limits? The recreational bag limit is 7 lobsters per person, and the minimum legal size limit is a 3 ¼ inch carapace.


3.) Do I need a permit for lobster diving? Yes! For lobster diving or fishing, you’ll need a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Spiny Lobster report card, and a California recreational fishing license. Both of these are available on CDFW’s site. You can even get permits for a multi-day trip. Just don’t skip this step and face fines for illegal fishing. Speaking of illegal fishing, both the Casino Point Dive Park and Lovers Cove are protected no-take areas: everything, including lobster are strictly off limits.


4.) What kind of gear is used for lobster diving? No hooks, no spears, just you. All skin and SCUBA divers are allowed to use only their hands to take lobster. Dive gloves can be useful when handling spiky spines. Forgot yours? Stop by Catalina Divers Supply before 4 p.m. daily. For pier fishing from a public pier, you may use up to 2 hoop nets. On fishing vessels, you may have up to 5 hoop nets, however the total number of hoop nets on a vessel may not exceed 10. A lobster bag, dive light, and metal gauge to measure are other essentials for your hunt.


5.) How do I measure my lobster? Every person taking lobster must carry a tool that is capable of accurately measuring the lobster’s size. Due to the curved carapace, a tape measure or ruler cannot measure accurately; A metal gauge works best -- get yours at Catalina Divers Supply.


6.) When should I measure my catch? Measure your lobster right away! Any undersize lobster must be released back into the water. Divers must measure while in the water, and hoop netters may measure out of the water. But be sure to leave the undersized guys where you found them. This is essential for the sustainable future of lobster season.


7.) What is the point of the lobster report card? Be sure to have your lobster report card on your person while diving or fishing for lobster. The data on these cards help the CDFW to track information on the recreational lobster catch year-to-year, and it helps inform conservation efforts and regulations. Failure to submit your report card to the CDFW after lobster season can lead to a non-return fee or non-fishing penalty.

8.) What’s the difference between commercial and recreational lobster fishing? Simply stated, if you’re selling your catch, you’re fishing commercially. Recreational fishermen are harvesting for sport, and commercial is highly regulated with a strict number of traps. On Catalina Island, the lee side of the island is closed to commercial, but open to recreational lobster fishing.


9.) What if I have more specific questions about lobster season? Before you get in the water, get all of your lobster questions answered by emailing lobster@wildlife.ca.gov.


For more information on lobster diving on Catalina Island, reach out to the local experts at Catalina Divers Supply.

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