12213403671?profile=RESIZE_710xAndy Rubin and Jim ‘Chiefy’ Mathie show off their crew’s first-day miniseason catch of lobsters and the new Chiefy snare by Lobster League that helped them catch those bugs. Steve Waters/The Coastal Star

By Steve Waters

Local divers have enjoyed a stellar start to the lobster season, beginning with the two-day miniseason at the end of July and continuing with the regular season, which is Aug. 6-March 31.

“I have no idea what the season’s going to be like, but so far it’s been great,” said Jim “Chiefy” Mathie of Deerfield Beach, who typically dives out of the Boca Raton Inlet.

A retired Deerfield Beach Fire Rescue division chief, Mathie never misses a miniseason, which is the first opportunity for recreational divers to catch lobsters once the regular season closes April 1.

The bugs, as they are known because of their insect-like appearance, are typically less wary during miniseason because they haven’t been poked and prodded by recreational and commercial divers for nearly four months. They’re also more plentiful because commercial traps have been out of the water during that same period.

Another major attraction of miniseason, which was July 26-27, is the daily bag limit of 12 lobsters for divers in Palm Beach and Broward counties, which is twice the regular-season limit.

Mathie and his five dive buddies had an excellent miniseason, catching their limit of lobsters both days. That included an extra lobster each day for Mathie because he shot more than 25 lionfish with his speargun. Lionfish are invasive, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission encourages spearfishers to shoot lionfish by rewarding those who kill 25 or more with an extra bug during miniseason.

Diving the first day between Boca Inlet and Hillsboro Inlet on Relentless, owned by Steve Spiegel of Lighthouse Point, and the second day on Mathie’s boat, the Chiefy crew caught 73 lobsters each day.

“We knew they were in shallow the first day and we ended up finding them in 30 feet of water, on the west side of the second reef,” said Mathie, the author of the how-to lobstering book Catching the BUG: The Comprehensive Guide to Catching the Spiny Lobster. “On the second day, they weren’t there. So, we ended up catching them in the 45-foot depths.

“So the key was making sure that you have multiple spots that you can check in multiple depths, because you just never know. Hey, 146 lobsters aren’t bad for six guys for two days.”

Mathie’s regular season picked up where the miniseason left off. On several trips Mathie and his crew got their limit on their first dive and went spearfishing on their second dive, which was an accomplishment.

“You’re competing with the lobster traps, and also divers that are commercial guys can catch up to 250 lobster per day. So that’s a lot of competition for us recreational guys,” Mathie said. “That’s the challenge of the regular season, but people have to realize that it goes to March 31.”

Another highlight of the miniseason and early season for Mathie was having divers use the new Chiefy snare by Lobster League. Unlike most snares, Mathie’s is made from strong, lightweight aluminum and injection-molded plastic parts secured with stainless steel screws and springs.

All of the parts can be replaced, if necessary, instead of your having to buy a new snare. Its 44-inch length is the longest on the market, and the snare has a thick monofilament loop that retains its shape, unlike the wire loops of other snares.

Its unique mode selector allows lobster hunters to choose a lock-off or lock-on position. In the latter setting, when the snare’s loop is closed around a lobster, the lobster cannot escape. The loop loosens only when the thumb release button is pressed.

“It’s going well,” Mathie said. “A lot of folks that are using it are really complimentary of it and they’re enjoying it, so that’s really nice.”

The snares are available at a handful of area dive shops, including the Force-E stores in Boca Raton and Boynton Beach and Dixie Divers in Deerfield Beach.

Outdoors writer Steve Waters can be reached at steve33324@aol.com.

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