Lobstering Basics

We invite you to browse through the menu items above for a brief history of the lobster fishery; to learn some basic information about the equipment and techniques used to catch lobsters; and even see what it like to take a trip out on a lobster boat by viewing our lobstering video.

While the American lobster can be found as far south as Virginia and the Carolina’s, the commercial fishery really starts in the Long Island Sound area of New York/Connecticitut — and ranges all the way up to Newfoundland, Canada.

The majority of fishing for lobsters is still done in much the same way as when the fishery first started…with a bit of modern technology to make things easier. About 80-90% of landings are from the inshore fishery, and lobsters are fished with baited traps or pots. The number of traps a lobsterman is allowed to fish at any one time may vary depending on the regulations where he/she is fishing. However, the technique is basically the same. A baited trap is dropped from the boat, or “set”. It is attached by a rope to a floating buoy to mark its location. Each lobsterman has his/her own buoy colors, in order to identify his/her traps. Occasionally, several traps will be strung together and marked by a single buoy. This is called a string or trawl.

Anywhere from 1-5 days later (weather permitting) the traps will be hauled up from the bottom. The lobsterman has a stick with a hooked end, called a gaff, which is used to hook the buoy and pull its rope up. Typically, the rope is then place over a roller powered by an hydraulic hauler that pulls the trap up from the bottom of the ocean. Originally hauling was done by hand. Today’s hydraulic haulers allow lobstermen to pull hundreds of traps in a day.

Once the trap is brought on deck, it is emptied. (Hopefully, it contains lobsters, but can also contain many other sea creatures such as crabs, starfish, seaweed, etc.) Legal lobsters are transferred to a “live tank” on the boat for storage. Those above or below designated legal size and/or (in most areas) those carrying eggs or a v-notch (indicating a female capable of bearing eggs) are returned to the ocean. The trap is then re-baited and re-set to await the next haul.

Requirements for such things as trap designs, gauge sizes to measue legal minimums and maximums , etc. may vary from state to state and between zones and areas in the U.S.; and between Canadian lobster fishing areas (LFAs). Our “Lobstering Basics” offers some general descriptions for gear design, etc.. For more specific information, check the Industry page on our site and click on Laws & Regulations.

Learn more about lobstering basics here.