Currently, Calfornia lobster fishing accounts for between 600,000 to 800,000 lbs of spiny lobster landed per year. The official season runs from the beginning of October to the middle of March each year. October is by far the busiest month. Things stay pretty busy until around January, and then it gradually starts slowing down until the end of the season.
Spiny lobsters in the 1.25-2.0lb weight class are in the greatest demand. It's easier for fish markets and restaurants to receive lobsters that are within that size range, so that they can charge customers a set price per lobster and maintain a consistent profit. Lobster fishermen usually fetch around $7 to $8 per lb. Most commercially fished spiny lobster is shipped to Asian and French markets, but the domestic demand has been steadily increasing in recent years.
Lobster fishing is considered a very lucrative business, but it's not the most accessible. There are only so many operator permits in circulation, and the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is very particular about issuing new ones. Some years they have a raffle where they issue two new permits. Other years they issue no new permits at all. The policy changes depending on what they believe the current capacity of lobster fishermen should be. Operator permits can be purchased and transferred through the Department of Fish and Game from active, licensed fishermen.
Some other regulations pertaining to commercial California lobster fishing are as follows:
- All lobsters caught and retained must meet a minimum size requirement of 3.25" in carapace length (CL), which can be determined by measuring the lobster from the back of the eye socket to the end of the body shell.
- Lobster traps must feature a DFG-approved destruct device, to prevent lost or discarded traps from indefinitely capturing marine life.
- Lobster traps must also have escape ports measuring 2.38" by 11.5". This helps to weed out undersized lobsters.