For South Florida divers, the annual lobster sport season, known as miniseason for its short, two-day duration, is the highlight of the summer. That’s because it’s the first opportunity for recreational divers to catch the tasty crustaceans, known as “bugs” because of their insect-like appearance, since the last regular lobster season closed on April 1. The regular lobster season opens on August 6, so miniseason is a popular warm up before the beginning of the regular season.
The miniseason is always the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July, which this year is July 27-28. Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, which offers the best beach diving for lobsters in Florida, celebrates the miniseason with its hugely popular BugFest.
When & Where
The 10th anniversary BugFest is July 26-30 and features up to $10,000 in cash, dive gear, other prizes, and awards for divers competing in the Great Florida Bug Hunt, which costs $30 to enter. Registration for the Bug Hunt is now open online at www.discoverlbts.com/bugfest and at Gold Coast Scuba in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea and runs through 6 p.m. July 26.
You don’t have to enter the contest or even be a diver to enjoy BugFest’s activities, like parties, concerts, and a lobster cooking competition. Lobster hunters and non-divers alike can book one of many Lauderdale-By-The-Sea hotels during BugFest. Divers who stay at beachfront hotels can catch lobsters by swimming out to the coral reef right off the beach.
BugFest begins July 26 with a free lobster hunting seminar by Jim “Chiefy” Mathie, author of the book “Catching the BUG: The Comprehensive Guide to Catching the Spiny Lobster,” from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Plunge Beach Resort. That is followed by a mini-season kickoff party from 6:30 to 9 p.m. with music provided by Scuba Cowboy.
The first day of the miniseason on July 27 features the start of the Great Florida Bug Hunt at 12:01 a.m. The contest weigh-in closes at 5 p.m.
A lobster chef competition, with amateur and professional chefs creating their favorite ways to prepare spiny lobster for a panel of judges – they also hand out samples to the audience –is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the beach pavilion at the end of Commercial Boulevard. The Great Florida Bug Hunt awards and raffle are from 7 to 9 p.m.
Cash Prizes & More
Lobster hunters can earn cash in a variety of categories. The heaviest lobster caught anywhere off a boat on July 27 wins $500, with $250 for the second-biggest and $150 for the third-place bug. The heaviest bug caught off the beach that day wins $500, with $250 for second and $150 for third. Weigh-in stations are open at El Prado Park, 4500 El Mar Drive, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, from 12:20 a.m. to 2 a.m. and from 1 to 5 p.m., and at Sands Harbor Marina, 125 N. Riverside Drive, Pompano Beach, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Divers receive a raffle ticket for every lobster they weigh-in, which means those who catch their limit get 12 tickets. Raffle prizes include:
Dive charter boat trips
A grand prize of a two-night stay at Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center in the Bahamas
BugFest activities resume July 29 with the “Scuba 4 Good” Benefit Concert at Plunge Beach Resort from 6 to 9 p.m. The concert raises funds for “Scuba for Good,” a non-profit that teaches people with disabilities how to dive. The organization partners with Gold Coast Scuba to coordinate boat dives for adaptive divers.
BugFest concludes July 30 with an underwater cleanup at Anglins Fishing Pier on the beach from 8 to 10 a.m. Divers who want to help remove the fishing line, hooks, sinkers, and other debris from the water around the pier can make a reservation by calling Gold Coast Scuba at 954-616-5909.