Florida spiny tail lobster, rock lobster, bugs or what the conchs call crawl fish. These lobsters are not like the Maine lobster with the big pinchers but with two long feelers called whips and very sharp spikes along the bottom of their tail and on the head. The spiny tail lobster’s meat is tougher than the Maine lobster especially when over cooked. A common mistake people make when preparing.
People say spiny tail lobster is inferior to Maine lobster but in my opinion you can keep your Maine lobsters and go to Maine. I think our Florida spiny tail lobster pack tremendous flavor and is delicious.
Many old timers have told me stories of when there use to be so many lobsters they would get tired of eating them. Being so high in cholesterol they would use them for bait. Diving down to get a lobster, ringing the head too use as chum the lobster tail meat was then cut up and used for bait.
My family and I have been going for lobsters as long as I remember. My parents would not punish me if I went out in the boat all day without checking in as long as I brought some tails home. Every year as lobster mini season was coming around the corner it was very exciting for me and all the other kids in the neighborhood. We all grew up in what is now called “new town”. We would ride our bike packed with our dive gear to North Roosevelt Boulevard jumping the seawall and searching every inch of that channel from the old “Blue Lagoon” to the Holiday Inn for lobsters. The mini season is during the summer so our parents would be at work and we would go right home, fire up the grill, squeeze some key limes from the tree and enjoy our lunch.
These days you notice the conga line of trucks with boat trailers coming down US1 to town for the mini season. They all come to get their share of the catch - so many I quit diving mini season. I definitely don’t mind the people that come to spark the economy in the dead of summer. I don’t mind the people that take their limit, respect the waters and follow the conservation rules. On the other hand there are many people that come to take every lobster they see and many people that pay no mind to size limits or quantity. What these people don’t realize is it ruins the livelihood of the people that make a living off of selling lobster. The monkeys (short lobsters not of legal limit) that are taken never get a chance to reproduce. I believe, as many fishermen do, that this is a big reason that they are so over fished.
So there are many ways to enjoy the native lobster here in Key West and the Florida Keys such as breaded in cracker meal and fried in olive oil or grilled Key West style. It can be cut into medallions pounded out and made key lime piccatta style. All these recipes are shown in previous articles of FishMonster Magazine.
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