The 2022-2023 California Spiny Lobster season opens this Saturday, October 1st at 6:00 AM, and hundreds of people will be looking forward to dropping their first few hoop net sets of the season. Here are a couple things to keep in mind before heading out on the water, as well as some refresher tips to give you the best shot at scoring your limit on opening day.

First things first, it’s important to remember that California Spiny Lobster is a highly sought-after resource and is regulated as such. While this may seem like common sense, do not forget to purchase your Spiny Lobster Report Card PRIOR to any Lobster fishing activities. You can acquire these at most of your local tackle shops, or head to the CDFW website where they have a dedicated Online License Sales and Services page.

The Spiny Lobster Report Card costs $10.80 this season and is required for all persons intending on taking Spiny Lobster at any point during the season, as well as any people assisting in the taking of Lobster. You are required to have your reporting card with you at all times while Lobster fishing, and it must be filled out prior to taking to the water with the date, gear ID code, and location. Remember that if you fish multiple locations in the same evening that you must document your catch before heading to a new location. Don’t forget a pen!

Here is a list of a few more regulations and things to keep in mind for the opener:

  • The recreational bag limit for CA Spiny Lobster is (7) seven lobsters per person.
  • Other than on a pier, every angler 16 years and older needs a California fishing license and a lobster card. 
  • Every angler participating in lobster hooping needs a gauge.  Everyone!
  • No more than 10 nets on a boat and if you’re hooping by yourself, in a kayak or a skiff, no more than 5 hoop nets. 
  • The angler’s GO ID must be on the buoy that the angler is pulling.  Only the angler with that Go ID may pull that buoy. 
  • After two hours of soaking, the net is determined, abandoned and could be up for grabs most likely by Harbor Patrol, Fish and Game or the Navy. 

Lobster Fishing Gear

Now that you are prepared with your CA fishing license and lobster report card, it’s time to start thinking about your gear. While hoop netting is by far the most popular way to target Spiny Lobster, regardless of your method of take you are required to have an approved measuring device. This will be used to determine whether your catch is of legal size or not. The legal minimum size for CA Spiny Lobster is 3 and ¼ inches when measured in a straight line along the carapace, from the rear edge of the eye socket to the rear edge of the body shell.

Next, you’ll need your hoop nets and accompanying gear of line or rope and a float large enough to incorporate your license ID and phone number, as well as a snap light. Depending on the type on conditions i.e. depth, location, current, you’ll be targeting Lobster in, the size/weights of your hoop nets and amount of rope required will vary. Luckily Promar offers a variety of sizes to cater to all different types of scenarios, from calm shallow water bay sets to deep soaks in heavy current at offshore Islands.

Of course, we can’t forget about the bait cages. There’s not much to it, but be sure to grab one that allows your bait to easily establish a scent trail for the bugs to follow. All bait cages are not made equal when it comes to keeping pesky Sea Lions out of them, so this is another factor to consider when picking out which bait cage will be best for you.

Lastly, don’t forget to acquire some good light sticks to attach to your buoys, or you may end up heading home with less gear than you came out with. While chemical light sticks have long been a popular choice, many are now opting for battery powered ones which are not only brighter, but also have different settings that can help you identify your traps when hoop netting in high traffic areas.

Preparation and Planning

Now it’s time to get down to business. We all know that the end goal of going out in pursuit of Lobsters is to go out, catch your limit, and come home with some delicious tail meat for friends and family, although this is much easier said than done. Planning and preparation play a big role when it comes to having a successful night on the water.

Before you even head out, you should have a plan of action. Whether you’ve decided that you’re going to target your favorite piece of structure on the coast, or just want to have a casual evening in the bay, it’s important to know which area you want to target and it’s not a bad idea to have a Plan B lined up in case it’s not producing or other fishermen have set up on your spot. For starters, reefs, jetties, and breakwalls are great areas to target, but be warned that you won’t be the only one with that idea.

Lastly, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the importance of having proper bait for your bait cages. This could be the difference between watching the fishermen next to you quickly garner their limits, or being the fisherman who quickly catches their limit. Acquiring bait that can quickly establish a strong scent trail is crucial, as this is how the lobsters find and enter your trap. Fresh dead bait is much more effective than that Skipjack that’s been frozen in your freezer for a year and a half. It should be cut into small pieces (but not so small they can fall out of your bait cage) and perhaps mushed, so that the oils from the bait are easily excreted into the surrounding water. The oilier and bloodier, the better, so fish like bonito, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are all a great choice to bait your traps with.

Lobster fishing can be long, cold, and brutal hours on the water, but don’t forget that it’s supposed to be fun. As long as you know your regulations, have your gear in order, and do your preparation, all that’s left to do is grab some of your best buds and get out there. Remember to be safe and always keep an eye out for other boaters and any other obstacles you might encounter on the water.

Below is the Recreational Lobster Fishing Information provided by the CDFW that you should familiarize yourself with prior to taking to the water this season.

  • 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. **The season no longer starts at midnight for safety reasons** For current regulations, please visit the Current California Ocean Recreational Fishing Regulations for Point Conception to the U.S. – Mexico Border.
  • Recreational Bag Limit: Seven lobsters per person.
  • Minimum Legal Size Limit: 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 (3 ¼ inch carapace). Please see the lobster measurement diagram (PDF)(opens in new tab) on how to measure your lobster.
  • Permit Requirements: CDFW Spiny Lobster Report Card and California recreational fishing license, available at CDFW’s Online License Sales and Service. An Ocean Enhancement Validation is also required if fishing in ocean waters south of Point Arguello (Santa Barbara County).
  • Skin and SCUBA Diver Gear Requirements: All skin and SCUBA divers must only use their hands to take lobster.
  • Pier Fishing Gear Requirements: You may use up to 2 hoop nets while fishing from a public pier.
  • Vessel Fishing Gear Requirements: You may possess up to 5 hoop nets while fishing from a vessel, but the total number of hoop nets from a vessel cannot exceed 10, even if there are more than 2 people on the boat
  • Fishing Locations: See the CDFW Ocean Sport Fishing Interactive Web Map(opens in new tab).