Do Your Own Lobster Fishing

Even if it's only to put a little extra meat on the table, lobster fishing season is an opportunity Atlantic coast residents shouldn't waste.

| May/June 1979

If you live near the Atlantic coast between Nova Scotia and New Jersey you'll be missing a good bet if you don't set out a few traps and try lobster fishing this summer.

The so-called "Maine Lobster" (Homarus americanus) is a great source of free, high-quality (and delicious!) protein, and it can also provide the enterprising boater with some additional income! A full-time commercial lobsterman or -woman can make up to $25,000 a year, and even a "summer sailor" can earn upward of $10,000 in a good season.

(The Pacific spiny lobster—Panulirus interruptus—and the smaller "spiny" of the southeast coast—P argus—are, of course, also delicious and potentially profitable. These species can often be taken by means of the same traps and techniques that are used for their northeastern cousins.)

The basic equipment necessary for this epicurean endeavor will include a boat, a motor (not absolutely essential if you're within rowin' range of your lobster grounds), and some lobster traps (usually referred to as "pots"). If you shop around, the total outfit—including new pots, a used boat and motor, and licenses—can cost less than $300. (I work from a 12-foot skiff with a three horsepower outboard and pull my pots by hand. Mechanical devices, like blocks and winches, are—of course—also helpful if you fish a large number of traps.)

Conservation Regulations

All U.S. coastal states (and Canada) now regulate lobster fishing, so be sure to check the local laws before you put your first pot in the water. You'll probably need to register your boat and motor. Here in Massachusetts that costs $5.00 per year. Then, there's the license to take lobster. In my state a commercial permit will run an even $100, and you must have one if you want to sell your catch. (These licenses aren't easy to come by, either, since Massachusetts recently froze the number of commercial permits issued.) However, any resident can obtain a $15 "sanction" to fish 10 traps provided any lobsters caught are used for personal consumption only

In addition to controls on the number of pots allowed, there are seasonal restrictions, lobster size limits, trap construction requirements, and other ordinances which vary from state to state. You'll undoubtedly be issued a synopsis of the regulations when you receive your license, and—though I'll discuss the more important ones below—I urge you to be thoroughly familiar with the rules that apply in your particular area.

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