By land they come and on the water they buzz about like predators inflamed by desire for the kill.
The Overseas Highway is suddenly clogged with long lines of cars, RVs and boats on trailers.
Supermarkets promise to open early and stay open late to accommodate the hunter-gatherers as they arrive dehydrated, burned lobster red by the sun and untrained in the finer arts of diving and surviving. Commerce rules.
Neighbors put their homes, their rental units and their vacation vehicles to good use, doing favors for friends who suddenly are desperate to visit the Florida Keys or making money accommodating lobster hunters in town for Wednesday and Thursday's bloodbath.
Boats are prepared for the running of the lobster for two short days this week, because mini season is just Wednesday and Thursday and hunters will be out before sunrise readying themselves for the hunt. They had better know what they are doing as the lobsters exact their own revenge. Every year one or more divers die in their pursuit of lobster. Unfit, untrained and over enthusiastic they stress their hearts or their equipment or their common sense, and they do die, some of them. You'd be amazed at the lengths sedentary people go to kill lobster.
It is a peculiar Florida tradition that dictates that non commercial anglers may get in the water and by dint of lung capacity and fingers alone may hunt for lobster who are just coming into season. Commercial fishermen have to wait a few more days until the official commercial season begins and they put down their traps in every single nook and cranny of these shallow waters, until the season ends next Spring.
There are a few rules and the Fish and Wildlife officers try to enforce em as much as possible, size and catch limits, no females with eggs, no hunting within 300 feet of shore, no hunting therefore in residential canals, no scuba, no spear guns, no running each other down, no drunk boating and so on and so forth. Most of them violated during the two days at least somewhere by some stupid human or another.
I overheard two locals discussing mini season at the Big Pine Winn Dixie and they were lamenting the crowds, the bad behavior, the lack of respect for our environment and so forth, common laments all of them. But the truth is merchants make tons of money at this slow time of year and commercial fishermen be damned if they lose some of their catch and the waters get trampled in the rush to kill lobsters by amateurs.
It's the usual Keys story, we live by tourism and sometimes tourism bites us back and we have to shut up and put up. How much it worth to preserve our coral reefs and wildlife? Not much apparently, not when it comes to the tourist dollar.
By Friday we will be returning to our summer somnolence and soon, next month in fact, students go back to school and the true quiet season begins for a few short blessed weeks. I can't wait!
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