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The Florida spiny lobster is off limits for now.
The two-day “mini season” is July 25-26, and the regular season starts Aug. 6 and lasts until March 31.
But a Northwest Miami-Dade man and his friends either didn’t know or care before they got busted with eight of the clawless, sought-after, crustaceans Sunday afternoon in Plantation Key, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Jorge Villafranca, 23, was arrested on a total of 19 conservation violations, including possessing lobsters out of season, possessing undersized lobsters and possessing undersized fish.
Six of the lobsters FWC officers found in his cooler were undersized. He also caught four gray snapper, two of which were undersized, and a spadefish, according to FWC Officer Brittany Mobley’s arrest report.
One of the lobsters had a hole in its carapace consistent with a spear tip. It is illegal to spearfish in state waters off the Upper Keys. It’s not clear if more charges are pending against Villanueva.
Fish and Wildlife officers patrolling Tom’s Harbor Cut near mile marker 88.5 around 2:45 p.m. watched as Villafranca and another man exit the water. Villafranca was holding a speargun and the other man was holding a white bucket. They walked to a pickup truck on the side of U.S. 1 and emptied the bucket into a blue cooler in the bed of the truck, according to Mobley’s report.
Officers asked Villafranca to open the cooler, but he said he did not want to. Officers opened the cooler after Mobley noticed a lobster antenna sticking out from beneath the lid, according to her report.
The other man and a woman with them were not arrested.
Villafranca was released from Monroe County jail at 9 p.m. Sunday. His bond information was not immediately available.