KEY LARGO -- With the sun beating down at high noon, Capt. John Greco and his two-man crew baited 100 spiny lobster traps with smelly cowhide and then loaded them onto his 28-foot boat, Dirty Girl, for another journey out to sea.
The traps were dropped six to eight miles offshore in waters 5 to 200 feet deep, and attached to ropes with a string of pink buoys for identification.
Throughout the Florida Keys and at a few other locations in the state, the crews of hundreds of commercial boats dropped nearly a half million licensed traps into the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico in preparation for the start of the 2013-14 season, which begins Tuesday.
The fishermen all hope for the same thing: no hurricanes, lots of lobsters and high prices.
"Going in, we're always very optimistic," said Bill Kelly, executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association. "The larvae counts and juveniles we've seen indicate it's going to be a good season. But we also had every indication it would be that way last year."
It wasn't. The Keys commercial fishermen caught just 3.7 million pounds last season, down from 5.4 million pounds in 2010-11 and 5.3 million pounds in 2011-12, according to data collected by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
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