How Mainers Fish for Lobster
The sun’s rays are just beginning to lighten the sky over the sea’s dark horizon as lobstermen row out to their boats. The law in Maine says from June through August they can only pull traps half an hour before dawn to half an hour after dusk and never on Sundays, so they make the most of the time they have.
There’s a lot to know about fishing for “bugs,” as the tasty crustaceans are often called by those who harvest them. Lobstermen must know how to read the sea’s mood to be successful since water temperature and tides affect their catch. Those colorful buoys you see bobbing on the surface of Maine waters all have unique colors and combinations that are assigned to each lobsterman. The buoys are attached to the traps that lure the lobsters inside.
Some lobstermen prefer to work alone, but others have sternmen, who bait the traps by hand with aged and salted herring or alewives. While the bait smells horrid to people, it’s a siren call to lobster as they patrol the ocean’s floors. Together, the captain and the sternman haul traps and measure all that’s caught. Lobsters that are too small or too big are thrown back to keep the population healthy and growing. Egg-bearing females are notched at the tail and thrown back, as well.
Ever wonder about those banded claws? There’s a reason they have those big, delicious claws. The rubber bands are necessary as lobsters can give a mean bite, plus lobsters are solitary creatures by nature and don’t take kindly to sharing space with others.
It is a hard life but ask any lobsterman if they’d do anything different. The answer is always a resounding no.
Learn more about the lobstering life in the Maine Lobster Quarterly.