A city practically born from the water, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea (LBTS), Florida enjoys a robust and driven community. During summer months, this passion for the ocean goes into full force with locals working together on a variety of projects and events. One of many celebrations taking place this summer – from July 24 to August 2 – the eighth annual BugFest-By-The-Sea will feature a series of happenings centered around Florida’s long-awaited two-day lobster mini season. But there’s far more to the seven-day extravaganza than bagging and tagging the iconic brown bugs: the festivity will provide a multitude of activities for divers, environmentalists, photographers, cooks, beach bums, and everyone in between.
By John Tapley
Sponsored by Reef Safe Sun, this year’s Bugfest will start Tuesday, July 24 with a free lobster hunting ceremony at LBTS’ Plunge Beach Hotel, beginning at 6 p.m. Hosted by author and lobster hunting expert, local Jim “Chiefy” Mathie, the seminar will last an hour and will share some tips and tricks on hunting the spiny crustaceans before bug hunting season begins. Chiefy will also give away five of his books on lobster catching.
Shortly after this seminar, at 7 p.m., the hotel will host a mini-season kickoff party at the beachside pool and bar. During the festivities, guests will have the opportunity to meet the ScubaRadio mermaids while enjoying Pup “Scuba Cowboy” Morse’s blend of trop rock music. Free beer will be provided courtesy Gold Coast Scuba.
On the morning of July 25, bug hunters from all over will converge off LBTS when lobster mini-season and the Great Florida Bug Hunt begin. A friendly competition, the bug hunt offers a swath of prizes from scuba gear and accessories (a regular and dive tank to name two) to Reef Safe sun care products, and a grand prize of $20,000 in cash. Participants in the contest will also receive a raffle ticket for each lobster they bring in, letting novice hunters in on the fun.
It’s not always about the biggest catch, and BugFest has established a number of categories to open the competition to more people. Contest divisions include Biggest Bug Caught Off A Boat or off South Florida Diving Headquarters boats Aqua View or Black Pearl; Biggest Bug Caught Off The Beach, during the Tuesday Midnight Beach Dive, and on Thursday; and the Bug Babe category where one woman diver will turn in a brown lobster considered the prettiest.
Throughout the next day, Bugfest participants can enjoy a bevy of activities located throughout LBTS such as dining and beach combing – amusements for the whole family. Lobster catchers who can’t get their fill in Broward County can also travel to nearby Monroe County where they can collect 12 of the spiny sea creatures per day. On July 26, starting at 6 p.m., the mini-season awards party launches with the return of Pup Morse and the ScubaRadio mermaids. A Lobster Chef Contest event will coincide with the awards ceremony with chefs and gourmands taking full advantage of the mini-season’s bounty.
As the eighth annual BugFest comes to a close, a couple additional festivities – taking place Saturday, July 28 – will share the excitement of LBTS’ coast and the U.S.A.’s diving community. Wreck diving enthuiasts can enjoy a wreck diving workshop hosted by the legendary John Chatterton, author of Shadow Divers and Pirate Hunters, along with two wreck dives the next day. July 28 also features a concert at Anglin’s Square starting at 6:30 p.m. – proceeds from this event will go to Diveheart and its mission to support adaptive scuba divers.
For more details on this bug bonanza, visit LBTS Events’ website at www.lbtsevents.com/bugfest-by-the-sea. For details on spiny lobster hunting, including Florida regulations, visit http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/lobster.