2015 Key West Lobster Sportsman Season

Florida Lobsters

Catching Lobsters In the Florida Keys. Here the Guys of Dream Catcher Charters pose with their catch.

Lobster mini season, also known as sportsman season is always the last Wednesday and Thursday in July, and this year it falls on July 29th and 30th.  This annual event typically brings around 25,000 visitors to the Florida Keys and Key West.

During this two day lobster bonanza, each properly licensed snorkeler and/or diver is allowed to take up to six legal sized lobsters per day in Monroe County waters.

Mini-season allows for lobster lovers to enjoy being on the water while catching a few of these critters before the opening of the regular lobster season which starts on August 6th. This can be a really fun time on the water, but that fun can quickly go south if you are not careful or if you do not follow the regulations.

How to Measure a Florida Spiny Lobster

How to measure a Florida Spiny Lobster for Mini season

The number of FWC officers patrolling on and off the water during mini season will be about twice as many as usual and will include undercover agents as well as police dogs trained to sniff out lobsters. If you get caught breaking the law in regards to catching lobsters illegally, taking more than your limit, or taking undersized lobsters, you will not pass go, you will not collect $200. You will go directly to jail! Seriously!  Ignorance of the rules will not get you off the hook, so if you have questions about regulations in regards to mini season, contact the FWC.

To get you started, check out the FWC brochure on Lobster regulations: FWC_spinylobster_brochure.

So, follow the rules and be safe on the water. Use a dive flag and dive with a buddy. Personally, I stay off of the water these two days and get my lobster at Publix to avoid the boating chaos.

Oh, and if I find any of you diving in the canal in front of my house for lobsters (which is not only rude but illegal by the way) you will be getting the stink eye from me as I put in a call to the local law enforcement agencies to have you arrested.

For more information about things to do and see in our island city, go to our Key West Web Site. You can also visit our Key West Events Calendar to see more details on upcoming special events.

And for restaurant reviews check out our restaurant review section of this blog as well as our restaurant reviews at www.gotothekeys.com.

Island Genn – Your Key West Concierge

Key West and the Florida Keys: A Culinary History

I love food. I enjoy both cooking and eating out. The highlight of my day is typically what I will be consuming. I normally eat very healthy meals that are still delicious, although I of course splurge on occasion. And the Florida Keys and Key West have a rich cultural history, making there all different types of cuisine found in the southernmost part of the United States. So I was super excited when I was contacted by Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman for information for an upcoming episode that they would be shooting in the Keys that only a local foodie could share with them. Here is some of what I shared with them…

Sea

When one thinks of Florida cuisine, and especially the Florida Keys and Key West, one thinks seafood. And they should! Commercial fishing is the second largest industry here, tourism being the first. Some of the more notable species fished for in our waters today include:

Island Genn With A Nice Key West Dolphin (mahi)

Island Genn With A Nice Key West Dolphin (mahi)

  • Key West pink shrimp
  • stone crab claws
  • spiny lobster
  • wahoo
  • blackfin tuna
  • swordfish
  • mahi mahi (dolphin)
  • black grouper
  • red grouper
  • yellowtail snapper
  • mutton snapper
  • red snapper
  • tilefish
  • hogfish (hog snapper)

You can find many of the local restaurants serving fresh seafood from the local waters. Or to make sure it is really fresh, you can go out on a fishing charter with one of the local captains and bring your catch to a local restaurant to have it cooked up for you. 

There are several dishes that are specific to the area such as fish dip. This local specialty is delicious, and no two will taste alike. It is usually made from smoked king fish or amberjack that most of us find to be too fishy tasting to eat any other way than smoked.
Key West Restaurants Dinner

Seafood Dinner at a Key West Restaurant

Key West used to have a huge conch industry here as well, so much so that the local Key Westers have dubbed themselves Conchs and Key West is known as the Conch Republic. But since the queen conchs in local waters were being depleted by fishermen, there was a commercial ban put into place in 1975 and a recreational ban in 1986. Because conch is such a Key West culinary tradition, they are now imported from the Bahamas to make such delicacies as conch fritters, conch ceviche, conch salad, cracked conch, and conch burgers which can be found at most local restaurants. The Mote Marine Laboratory has recently opened the Key West Conch Baby Farm next to the Conch Republic Seafood Company Restaurant with the intent to release about 4500 conchs into the Key West waters annually in hopes to replenish the stock.

Sea turtle farming and canning were also once big business in the Florida Keys, but by the 1940’s there were not enough turtles to support the industry. And turtle meat was still processed and served in Key West until about 1980. Today, the location of the original Turtle Cannery and Kraals is on the US National Register of Historic Places and serves as a small museum.  Turtle Kraals Restaurant also has turtle races twice a week.

Land
Key Lime Pie at Square One

Key Lime Pie at Square One

With its small land mass, hard limestone surface, and lack of fresh water, farming is not something that the Florida Keys is known for. From the earliest days, residents have always grown some of their own produce to live off of and trade with one another. Many of us have coconut and banana trees in our yards still today. However, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s a few did attempt to start a farming industry, mainly in the Upper Keys where such crops as pineapples, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, cassava, tapias, tamarinds, breadfruit, beets, carrots, turnips, limes, sugar apples, bananas, oranges, grapefruits, avocados, pears, coconuts, onions, and various tropical fruits were grown.  But with the development of land, this farm land was needed and ended the fledgling industry. In more recent years citrus canker destroyed many of the citrus trees in the  area, but they are slowly making a comeback. A hydroponic farm on Plantation Key growing lettuces is making a go at farming again in the Upper Keys. And many local restaurants such as The Square Grouper on Cudjoe Key grow their own herbs to use in their meals.

While we no longer have an industry for farming key limes, nothing says Key West quite like key lime pie. The pie’s origins are said to derive from Key West’s first millionaire, William Curry, whose cook made it for him in the 1800’s. Key Limes were also thought to prevent scurvy from those underway at sea for days on end. Today, there is hardly a restaurant in the Keys where you can not find key lime pie on the menu. We even had the first Key Lime Festival this year, which coincided with the 4th of July festivities. Places like Kermit’s and the Key West Key Lime Pie Factory make their pies here for residents and visitors to enjoy, and they ship them out all over the country as well.
Delicious chicken with brand and rice at havana Key West on Duval Street.

Delicious chicken with beans and rice at Havana Key West on Duval Street.

The islands also have a large Cuban population, so even though we no longer keep live stock here and all of our meat is shipped in, you can find Cuban specialty dishes at many local eateries. And some of the best Cuban Food can be gotten at places like El Siboney and El Meson de Pepe’s. A few of the more popular menu items include:

  • Ropa Vieja (shredded beef)
  • Picadillo (ground beef)
  • Lechon Asado (roast pork)
  • Cuban sandwiches
  • plantains
  • yucca
  • Cuban bread
  • Cuban coffee
There are many other types of food served by the many nationalities of people that call the Keys home. You will find everything from Thai to Italian on the island and throughout the Florida Keys.
Key West is a party town. So you can imagine the number of festivals we have down here, which is just an excuse to eat and drink for most!  Some food related festivals that we have here in the Florida Keys and Key West include:
  • Key West Food and Wine Festival – January
  • Key West Seafood Festival – January
  • Uncorked, the Islamorada and Key Largo Food Festival – January
  • Florida Keys Celtic Festival (Marathon) – January
  • Brew on the Bay (Key Largo) – January
  • Key Largo Stone Crab and Seafood Festival – January
  • Key West Master Chef’s Classic – January
  • Taste of Key West – April
  • Key Lime Fest (Key West) – July
  • Lobsterfest Key West – August
  • Key West Brewfest – August
  • Goombay Key West – October
With so many bars dotting the island, one could guess that alcohol played a huge part of Key West’s history. During prohibition many Key Westers made their living by importing rum from nearby Cuba. And the Rum Bar located at the Speakeasy Inn on Duval Street is said to have been a haven for smuggled rum during this time. In order to legally advertise that establishments were serving bootleg alcohol, the gingerbread decorations on the outside of the buildings added bottle shapes. You can still see some of this today walking around downtown. Today, many bars help make Key West and the Florida Keys famous. Ernest Hemingway frequented Sloppy Joe’s in Key West, and today it is still a huge tourist attraction. It is also said that the first rumrunner was concocted in the 1950‘s in Islamorada at the Holiday Isle Tiki Bar. Today, chef and kiteboarder Paul Menta is opening Key West’s first legal rum distillery soon in the abandoned Cocoa Cola bottling plant on Simonton Street.
Key West is a foodie’s paradise. Nothing outright weird on the menu, but lots of diversity with a rich culinary history, its mainstay being the seafood industry.

Before deciding where you are going to eat while visiting Key West, be sure to read my other restaurant reviews too; check out our restaurant review section of this blog as well as our previous restaurant reviews.

And to see what is happening on Key West during your visit, check out our Key West Events Calendar to see other upcoming special events. For more information about the fun side of Key West… things to do and see in our island city, go to our Key West Web Site.

Feel free to Email Me if you have any questions about Key West!!

Island Genn
Key West Concierge

I Caught A Shark!

Bull Sharks live in the Key West waters and they offer anglers an exciting fight!

Bull Sharks live in the Key West waters and they offer anglers an exciting fight!

Over the weekend I decided to take advantage of living in Key West and went shark fishing with Dream Catcher Charters. While I am afraid of these toothy critters, I was assured by Capt Tommy that I was perfectly safe viewing them from the boat and that I did not have to handle a shark once I caught one unless I actually wanted to. That put me at ease straight away.

I showed up at Sunset Marina for my charter around 7am with my sunglasses and an energy bar in case I got hungry. Dream Catcher Charters provides plenty of bottled waters, so that was one thing I did not have to worry about. They also provide license, gear, bait, and everything else one would need on a fishing charter. Capt. Tommy met me at the tackle shop and brought me to the boat where he proceeded with his speech about where the safety equipment was located on the boat and what to do in an emergency.  We stowed my small bag and were off.

The vessel was a 24′ bay boat, so while it floats very shallow, the gunnels are slightly higher than those of a flats boat and I felt safe from falling overboard. It is also a more stable platform and has lots of neat gadgets like shallow water anchors called Power Poles and electric Motorguide trolling motors. These additions to the boat might seem like bling, but they also make the captain’s job easier and allows him to give more focus to the client.

We made the run out to Capt. Tommy’s pinfish traps and retrieved some bait there. It only took a few minutes and it was a fun start to the day. We then went out to an area where we could use our pinfish to catch some shark bait. Using both pinfish and lures, we managed to get into some nice sea trout, different typed of jacks, and a bunch of other species. Some we threw back while others we kept in order to lure in our sharks.

I was having a blast just bending a rod and conversing with my captain. But since this was a shark trip we eventually moved to another area that I was told were proven shark fishing grounds. Capt. Tommy cut up some of the bait fish that we hooked earlier and baited my hook. He directed me where to cast and after a very short time waiting I hooked up. I lost my first few fish to angler error, but I eventually hooked into another one, and by following Capt. Tommy’s directives I landed myself a huge Bull Shark. Because he was so big and I was a little fearful of the teeth, Capt. Tommy did not bring him into the boat, but instead released him using a de-hooking tool and we watched him swim away. To me the shark looked like he weighed a ton, but Capt. Tommy assured me that he was only about a buck eighty which is still a really big fish.

After the Bull Shark episode we headed back to the dock. I was tired and hungry after fighting all of those fish. Capt Tommy even cleaned one of the trout I had caught when we got back to the dock and I brought it over to the Hogfish Bar and Grille where they cooked it up for me. Yum!

To make a fishing charter reservation contact Dream Catcher Charters at 888-362-3474. 

Dream Catcher Charters offers visitors to Key West for Special Events Fishing Charters. Save Money and Have A Better Time Booking Direct.

Dream Catcher Charters offers visitors to Key West for Special Events Fishing Charters. Save Money and Have A Better Time Booking Direct.

Be sure to keep up with my blog for information about Key West. From its long history to what is happening right now!

Before deciding where you are going to eat while visiting Key West, be sure to read my other restaurant reviews; check out our restaurant review section of this blog as well as our previous restaurant reviews.

And to see what is happening on the island during your visit, check out our Key West Events Calendar to see other upcoming special events. For more information about the fun side of Key West… things to do and see in our island city, go to our Key West Web Site.

Feel free to Email Me if you have any questions about Key West!!

Island Genn
Key West Concierge

Redbone SLAM Key West

MLB Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, hopes to catch-and-release permit, shown here, along with bonefish and tarpon at the 24th S.L.A.M. in Key West, a celebrity fishing tournament which helps fund CF cure research. (Redbone photo courtesy of Capt. Steve Lamp)

MLB Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, hopes to catch-and-release permit, shown here with Capt. Steven Lamp, along with bonefish and tarpon at the 24th S.L.A.M. in Key West, a celebrity fishing tournament which helps fund CF cure research. (Redbone photo courtesy of Capt. Steve Lamp)

Anglers challenged at 24th celebrity S.L.A.M. in Key West for CF research
Slots open as Robert James Sales Redbone Keys Trilogy series kicks off Sept. 6 – 8.

KEY WEST, Florida – The challenge is there for anglers, guides and celebrities alike; finding, catching and releasing permit, bonefish and tarpon — the grand slam of flats fishing — while scoring the most points in fly, artificial and bait categories at the 24th S.L.A.M. Sept. 6 – 8.

Angler entries are available in the S.L.A.M. (Southernmost Light-Tackle Anglers Master), which include celebrities MLB Hall of Famer Wade Boggs and NASA astronaut Bruce Melnick. Artwork is awarded to the top anglers, teams and guides in numerous categories.

Also making up the Robert James Sales Keys Trilogy is the 23nd Baybone in Key Largo, Oct.11 – 13, and the 26th annual Redbone, Nov. 1 – 3 in Islamorada, which began the celebrated series to become the genesis of more tournaments for CF research funding across N. America.

And there’s a challenge for cystic fibrosis researchers, the tournament’s beneficiaries as they move ever-so-closer to catch a cure that could change thousands of CF patients’ lives. The strides in medical research have been significant says Redbone founder Capt. Gary Ellis.

“Remarkable advancements increasing the life expectancy of young CF sufferers have been made over the 26 years since we started these tournaments,” said Ellis, “especially now with the most promising ones through gene research. It’s amazing how far they’ve come, but there’s still no cure and our tournaments continue in full force to help them.”

The DoubleTree Grand Key Resort is the host hotel with registration, reception and live and silent auctions on Friday. It’s also the setting for the Sunday awards banquet at 7 p.m.

The S.L.A.M. is preceded by the Superfly, a one-day, one-fly competition for the same fish trio sponsored by The Angling Company in Key West. The Thursday, Sept. 5, registration is set for 6 p.m., at the Hurricane Hole Restaurant & Marina, at mile marker 4.5 Oceanside. The fly fishing tournament is slated for Friday, with an awards ceremony beginning at 5 p.m.

The Hurricane Hole is also the site for the 3 – 5 p.m. dockside parties after fishing on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The S.L.A.M.’s entry fee is $3,500 for a two-angler team or $3,000 for an angler to fish with a celebrity and includes two days’ charter fees with a professional guide. The entry fee for the Superfly is $350 per angler who also fishes the S.L.A.M. or $500 per angler if not.

The Redbone began in 1988 by the Capt. Gary and Susan Ellis as a grassroots effort to help victims like their daughter, Nicole, who have CF. With help from baseball legend Ted Williams and his celebrity friends to attract anglers, $16,000 was raised that first year.

The Redbone has spawned over two dozen fishing events across the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica and the Bahamas raising more than $18 million for scientists at the CF Foundation.

With title sponsor Robert James Sales other Redbone Trilogy sponsors include Redbone Rods, Rich Products, Double Tree Grand Key Resort, Hurricane Hole, Dove Creek Lodge, Kall Graphics, Image Graphics DragonFly Boatworks,The Lorelei, The Islander Resort, Snappers, Power Pole, Eva-Kool USA, Morada Green (suncare products) and Thomas & Thomas.

For more info on this unique Fla. Keys series or the other tournaments in the Redbone family of events call the Redbone office at 305-664-2002 or go online to www.redbone.org.