10 important laws you need to know before lobster diving in California, complete with the most recent updates for 2022.

Lobster diving by hand

Los Angeles, CA – Sep 26, 2022 

A guy (not the one above) maybe 30 years old came into Malibu Divers and said he was interested in buying a wetsuit. We chatted a while and discussed suits. I asked if he was certified. He said "certified for what?" Okay, so this is how it started.

Then he said he wants to buy a speargun to hunt.  "Okay, I said you can freedive with a gun and don't need to be certified to dive to do that, but there are many rules on the type of fish you can hunt."  So he said "Lobster".  I explained, “No, you can’t use a gun to hunt lobster, in fact if you even have one on you when you come out of the water with a lobster, you will be hugely fined and may even go to jail.” 

So, he asked "well, what do I use then"  I said "you can only take lobster by hand." 

He walked over to the pole spears and said "one of these?"  I again explained that that was against the law and you can only use a hand, and raised my hand in the air.  He argued that I was wrong and his buddies use these.  "Well, unfortunately your friends are misinformed, you can only take by hand." I said. 

So he asked me if we sold any of those...confused, I said "any of what???" 

Slightly frustrated with me, he said  .......wait for it....wait for it........... "so do you sell any By Hands?"

No doubt about it: California Spiny lobster diving is still a hot adventure right now. More and more people with SCUBA dive certification in California are diving to catch the fabled creatures from the depths with their gloved hands. People just love lobster appetizers like lobster fondue, lobster pizza, or lobster rangoon, and there really is nothing like serving up a dish that you caught with your hands! Before you pack your scuba gear, drive to the beach for night diving or giant stride off a dive boat, however, here are 9 important laws you need to know before lobster diving in California, complete with the most recent updates for 2021.

  1. You Need a Fishing License - Anyone 16 years of age and up must have a valid California fishing license and lobster report card to catch lobster. (Kids under 16 need a spiny lobster report card too, if they are fishing for, taking, or assisting with fishing for spiny lobster.) Licenses aren't hard to get, but just make sure you don't pull anything up out of the water without one. It'll land you a minimum $100 fine. A misdemeanor violation of the Fish and Game Code can result in imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year and the loss of fishing or hunting privileges. The fine and penalties resulting from the illegal take of fish and wildlife range from $250 to $50,000. Auto renewal options are available too.
  1. Nothing but your hands - Divers, you have to catch these suckers without the help of fishing line, poles, spears, etc. If you come across a lobster in a crevice, you can't use any sort of appliance to lure or pry it out. 
  1. Size Matters - Lobsters must be 3.25 inches long to be keepers, and you have to measure them right there in the water and throw them back if they're too small. No waiting until they're already in the back of your truck or back on the boat. In fact, divers are required to have a lobster gauge on their person at all times!
  1. Keep it in season - recreational lobster diving season runs from the beginning of October to the middle of March ; 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** Opens on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 at 6 a.m., continuing through March 22, 2023.
  1. Fill out your lobster report card - Everyone (even people under 16) must fill out an official lobster diving report card whether you caught any or not. Report cards need to be turned in by April 30. Report cardholders who fail to return their Full Season Spiny Lobster Report Card or report their harvest online by April 30, following the close of lobster season, will be assessed a $21.60 non-return fee when they purchase a spiny lobster report card for the following season.
  1. No Traps - Recreational lobster divers may not use California Spiny Lobster traps. That right is reserved exclusively for the commercial lobster fishers.
  1. Seven is the magic number - Recreational lobster divers may catch no more than 7 lobsters per day per person. (A good game bag designed for the legal limit that you can use with one-handed operation and one way opening is the ticket.) 
  1. Not for sale - It is illegal for recreational lobster divers to sell their lobsters. All the more for you! (Fines are substantial and all of your gear and lobster used during the commission of the crime, can be potentially confiscated.)

  2. Location matters When taking lobster, please consult the online, interactive Ocean Sport Fishing Interactive Web Map  for the California coastline to ensure you are not fishing in prohibited waters. It is extremely important that divers know the location and regulations for each Marine Protected Area (MPA) near where they will be fishing.


  3. For 2022 - If you purchased a 2022 calendar year lobster report card, your card is only valid through Dec. 31, 2022, and is due back to CDFW by Jan. 31, 2023. If 2022 calendar year cardholders wish to continue fishing for lobster from January 1 through March 22, 2023, you'll need to purchase the new seasonal lobster report card. You'll also need to renew your annual sport fishing license for January 1, 2023 to remain properly licensed for bug hunting. Here’s how to get on-line at California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Keep in mind that lobster report cards from internet orders will be shipped via the mail and you'll need to allow 15 days for delivery. By phone (800) 565-1458 or in person at your favorite local bait store/licensed agent click here to locate

    Come see our new inventory item at Malibu Divers; it’s barcoded and called “BYHAND”.  It’s free with any purchase and applied right to your wrist! For more information about Lobster Diving, you reach us via email at contact us drop by 7 days a week or call (310) 456-2396.

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

    Latest Stories

    This section doesn’t currently include any content. Add content to this section using the sidebar.