If you notice some of your co-workers or your boss missing from the job Wednesday, they might be celebrating Floridas biggest unofficial holiday: lobster mini-season.
The two-day recreational sport diving season opens at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and continues through midnight Thursday statewide. Thousands of scuba divers and snorkelers are trying to catch a limit of 12 lobsters per person per day everywhere but the Keys and Biscayne National Park, where the limit is six.
Lobsters are rare off Manatee County shores. There are more of them in South Florida and along Florida's east coast, said Amanda Nalley, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other marine law-enforcement units are patrolling the waterways in boats both marked and unmarked and in vehicles at boat ramps and marinas to make sure hunters obey lobster and boating safety regulations.
Officers will take extra care to enforce divers-down flag rules. Divers and snorkelers must tow the red-and-white flags while they are in the water. Boats that deploy divers must display a flag at least 20 inches by 24 inches, with a stiffener to keep it unfurled, and it must be visible from all directions. Divers are required to stay within 300 feet of their boats divers-down flag in open water, and within 100 feet in inlets and channels. When moving from spot to spot, boaters must take down the flag.
Lobster hunters must have a valid Florida recreational saltwater fishing license and lobster permit. Their catch must measure greater than three inches on the carapace (head) and be measured in the water. Spearing and taking egg-bearing females are prohibited.
The regular lobster harvest season for commercial and recreational trappers and divers will open Aug. 6 and run through March 31.