Lobster Traps in the ICW (Florida Keys)

I have a new pet peeve. It’s lobster traps in the ICW. As we are originally from Maryland and have spent a lifetime boating on the Chesapeake Bay, we are familiar with crab pots and the floats that accompany them. However, in Maryland there is a rule prohibiting crab pots from marked channels.

As we cruised the Florida Keys recently, we encountered thousands, if not tens of thousand of lobster traps directly within the marked channel of the ICW. I thought to myself, “Self, there ought to be a law against this.” On most modern GPS/Chartplotters, there is a thing we call the Magenta Line. It designates the center of the ICW channel. We travel it often on the west coast of Florida and never encounter traps or pots of any kind. In the Keys, especially between Marathon and Islamorada, that magenta line is thoroughly carpeted with an almost infinite number of lobster traps.


It’s difficult to get a photo that shows the true extent. The sheer number of floats and their close proximity is a clear hazard to navigation. I don’t understand why a waterman would risk his gear by placing it in a high traffic area where he knows there is a good chance it will get tangled in a passing boats running gear.


I decided today, to look into the rules that govern the placement of lobster traps in Florida. Sure enough, there is a prohibition against putting them in the ICW.

Rule: 68B-24.0045
Rule Title: Importation of Spiny Lobster; Documentation and Other Requirements
Division: Marine Fisheries


68B-24.007 Other Prohibitions.

(3) No spiny lobster traps shall be set, placed, or caused to be set or placed at, on, or below the waters of the state within 100 feet of the intracoastal waterway or within 100 feet of any bridge or sea wall.

That seem pretty clear to me. So does the fact that the FWC is not enforcing this in any way. Maybe someone with more influence than myself can pass the word along. A clear-cut, sensible regulation is being brazenly violated and the FWC seems to be turning a blind eye. I’m not talking about a stray trap here and there. I’m talking about many thousands of traps. Sometimes they are so close your vessel gets boxed in and you can’t escape without running dangerously close to them.

Who wants to start some sort of campaign? I’m with you.

12 thoughts on “Lobster Traps in the ICW (Florida Keys)

  1. Wally Moran

    What? The FWC enforce a clearly delineated rule of their own? Perish the thought, they are too busy creating more laws to deal with derelicts that don’t exist rather than enforce General Regulation #22 which deals with derelicts, and pump out rules that aren’t needed since every jurisdiction in the state has rules against it.

  2. Dan Haywood

    Theres so many everywhere they are a hazard to nav period. The place you speak of is almost impossible to single hand through in daylight without becoming entangled. At night its probably not possible. So none of us can transit the ICW without risk and a fullmoon pleasure sail is out of the question. I recently sailed into Islamorada dragging two of these. If you look youll notice the bottom has hundreds of these laying around with no bouy attached. They just keep killing. Its absurd. The FWC needs to do something about these. Well, if you hit them you might get lucky like me and have lobster for dinner.

  3. harold ochstein

    If you sail a little to the north of the ICW past Islamorada you are in Everglades National park where traps are banned. Once you get past Steamboat Channel there are much less since you are out of the migratory path the lobster use to get to the reefs to lay there eggs. Biscayne Bay, Card and Barnes Sound are also lobster sanctuaries, the few pots that are there are Stone Crabs. Went for an ASA 106 training sail on full moon in Biscayne Bay last week, it was pretty awesome…

  4. Nan

    Contact the Coast Guard Auxilary and ask them who you should report this to. They or the Coast Guard themselves should answer to this & handle it.

  5. T. Ellis

    Years ago I went through there in a 58 foot Hatteras that had the anti fowling blades on shaft… It didn’t work… Ended up running on one engine at a time. Intermittent diving to cut lines out… Truly frustrating… I had hoped this was because of a recent hurricane. But this is crazy!! May have to start dragging a few on board to stop this behavior…

  6. Eric

    Free pots and crabs and lobster! And or, a .22 send the floats to the pots….Knife, knife on a pole, if you have to snorkel, all the above! Same as kayaking, don’t cry about getting wet when you go play in the water!


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