Many people are curious about lobstering. In Maine most all the lobsters are caught in the summer/fall but a few hearty souls do fish through the winter. Most of us fish in shore but there is an off shore fisheries as well. There are two levels of lobster licensing, one is a recreational license and the second a commercial license. A recreational license, we call them ‘5 trappers’, can fish 5 traps and can not sell their catch. A commercial license, such as what my wife and I each have, can fish up to 800 traps and naturally sell our catch. Some fisherman can purchase a class II or III license to cover the use of a stern man . A stern man baits, bait bags and helps handle gear.
Lobsters are caught in plastic coated wire traps set on the bottom of the ocean. Traps are generally 3 to 4 feet long. They have four knitted heads, roughly shaped like funnels. When the lobster enters, they have a difficult time finding the center of the funnel to get back out. Two of the heads allow the lobster to get into the ‘kitchen’ of the trap. The bait is in the kitchen. The rest of the trap has one to two ‘parlors’ each with a funnel to get into them. Lobster see these as a place to go after eating some bait. Hopefully, the lobster do not figure out how to get out before the trap is hauled.
Lobster traps can be fished singly, meaning one trap for each buoy and rope. They can be fished as doubles, triples, and so on. Lobster are nocturnal, consequently, traps are set and left over night. Most fishermen leave them multiple nights. I prefer a four night set for my traps. I fish doubles, so I have one buoy and one main rope, with a another rope going from one trap to the second. I fish sink rope on the main rope at least half way down and float rope on the bottom half along with float rope on the second trap. The sink rope keeps the rope off the surface so it does not get cut or tangled in propellers and the float rope near the traps floats up off the bottom, so it does not get fouled on the bottom as the tide and currents move the rope.
There are many types of fish that can be used for bait; herring is one of the most popular, poggies, and the filleted remains of most any fish. The bait fish is salted to preserve it, which also draws out the oil. This oil, as it drifts out into the water, is what the lobster sense and this draws them to the traps.
In Maine, we have a size gauge, any body length under 3 1/4” is too small. The Canadians can keep smaller one, which are called canners. Any body length over 5” is too big and must be thrown back as well. They are considered good breeders (both male and female). Female lobster can be taken as long as they show no eggs (or berries) located under their tails or if they do not have a V notch. A lobsterman in Maine will cut a V notch in the tail flipper of any female lobster that has eggs on her and return her to the sea. The 2nd flipper from the left looking down on the lobster is the flipper that must be notched. The notching and the size limits have been done in Maine for many many years, thus preserving the growth of the lobster population here in Maine.