When some folks think of summer, pleasant thoughts of lobster rolls and wonderful lobster dinners at their favorite seafood places come to mind quickly. It’s fascinating but in the year 2019 just in the U.S.A. alone, 202.83 million pounds of lobsters were reportedly recorded at commercial landings.
There is a process to commercially harvesting lobsters. It is hard work done off a boat, sometimes in challenging waters and weather.
If you have ever vacationed in Maine and stayed along the coast, then you have heard and seen Lobstermen harvesting lobsters pulling up their traps. It is almost a religious experience watching them toil out on those hazy foggy mornings in the shallow rocky waters. Most of the coast of Maine is prime for harvesting lobster. Off of Montauk, there are areas know to the local east end lobstermen that are primed with bountiful supplies of lobsters.
There was a time when lobsters were gathered at the shore but those days are gone. Now fisherman lay traps usually with those colorful floating markers. If you motorboat or sail in the local waters of the east end, you are always looking out for those markers to avoid them.
The average lobster boats in Maine are 22’ to 40’ with big open back areas to store and haul the lobster traps. They have high bows for battling waves and low freeboard at the back. This is so that the traps can be easily facilitated to the deck.
Lobsters are harvested in the old traditional way of using traps. The traps are rectangular and range from 30 to 40 inches long and wide. With an average weight of 40 pounds, it takes strong arms haul them around. They are usually dropped to the sea floor in strings of ten to fifteen pots. Then they are usually checked every two to three days.
The bait often used inside the lobster trap consist of salted herring, although some use haddock. The bait is contained in a mesh “bait bag” with 1/8-inch holes that is hung in the trap. The ideal location for a trap is on an upward terrain. Lobsters feed while ascending. Ten to Twelve lobsters can be caught in just one trap. It has been summarized by industry experts that the average serious commercial lobsterman services 250-300 traps a day.
There is an attempt to avoid catching female “berried” lobsters who are carrying eggs. Amazingly a one-pound female lobster carries approximately 8000 eggs. A jumbo 9-pound female lobster can carry as many as 100,000 eggs. The eggs are the size of a pin (1/16”). Not all female lobsters make eggs. It takes 5-7 years for a lobster to mature to legal size for harvesting. Therefore, your average one-pound lobster is around seven years old. Lobsters under one pound are illegal to harvest.
The average lobsters that are caught are around or just over one pound with the big ones between 3 and four pounds. The largest lobster ever caught was a whopping 44 pounds three ounces. It was caught off of Nova Scotia, Canada in 1977. It was estimated to be about 100 years old.
Lobster season is basically all year round, but mostly between June and December. The majority of lobsters caught in Maine are caught from the beginning of July to December. The best time to harvest lobsters is in the late fall early winter. October, November, and December are the best months.
Next in this series on Lobsters will the finale : Buying Lobsters and Cooking Them.