Outdoors | ‘Doesn’t get any better’ than catching lobster on Florida Keys

Every summer, Ed Kinkopf takes his family vacation down to the Florida Keys.

In past years, the Bradenton family traveled for the lobster mini-season that falls on the last Wednesday and Thursday in July before returning for the full season opener on Aug. 6th.

This year, Kinkopf recently returned from a three-week stay with daughter Casey, Tim Wilkinson and Dean Culley, enjoying a mixture of fishing and diving at the Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge.

“We mainly go for lobster and to spear grouper and hogfish but we also use hook and line, especially those days between seasons,” said Kinkopf, a Bradenton Realtor. “We pull our 30-foot travel trailer and 22-foot Aquasport and set up in comfort.”

The four- to six-hour drive (depending on which part of the Keys your trip ends) is well worth it when you consider what the Keys have to offer the outdoor enthusiast. You can snorkel or dive for lobster; fish for tarpon, permit or bonefish on the flats; spearfish for hogfish, grouper or snapper; or head offshore for tuna, sailfish or dolphin. It’s all available.

For Kinkopf, an average day is spent primarily on the water.

“We get up at 7 a.m., eat breakfast and make sandwiches and load the coolers. After we get ice and load the boat, we’re on the water by about 9 a.m. lotioned up and headed to the Seven Mile Bridge. We fire up the GPS, start hitting lobster holes, tickling lobster and shooting fish. Then drag and look for new holes all day before heading back in around 6 or 7 p.m. to get gas. We clean lobster and fish, shower, grill lobster and fish, eat, take a dip in pool, have a cocktail, before going to bed and to do it all again tomorrow!”

If you’re mouth isn’t watering, you’ve probably never had fresh Florida spiny lobster.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t get any better (or fresher) than firing up the grill and dipping lobster in melted butter while talking about the fun you just had!” Kinkopf says.

The eight-month lobster season will run through March 31, with the Florida Keys being the hottest spot for the spiny crustaceans. There is plenty of time to head down and catch your own if interested. Occasionally, divers will discover them off our coast on deeper ledges and rock piles.

Kinkopf is already planning on doing it again next year in the Florida Keys.

“I’ve already made my three-week reservation for next year!” he said.

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