"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

September 7, 2016

Lobster Traps

We can already see a difference in boat traffic since Labor Day. We spent the day in our anchorage near Sawyer Island…and we didn’t see one other boat. The small bay surrounded by homes, was completely empty. It was a busy spot three weeks ago. We enjoyed our quiet day catching up on boat chores, reading and making plans for the next few weeks. We also enjoyed lunch at Trevett’s Country Store…more wonderful clams and fish.

Trevett Maine's post office
When you think of Maine the first thing that comes to mind is LOBSTER. They are wonderful and everywhere you look you can see signs of the business…every harbor is full of lobster boats, buoys, and traps piled high on the docks. There are around 6000 licensed lobsterman in Maine and each can legally set 800 traps, although most aren't able to tend that many. That’s a lot of lobster traps!
A land friend of mine was asking me about lobster traps the other day…so I thought I’d include a little info about lobstering in my blog. Today’s blog is about traps and gear the lobsterman uses, tomorrow more general information on lobster. 

Lobster Trap Design: Most modern-day lobster traps (also called pots) are rectangular (for easy stacking when out of water), and are constructed of coated wire mesh. Wire traps began to replace the traditional wooden traps in the late1970s. Wire traps require less maintenance and are lighter out of water (about 40 lbs. vs. 125 lbs.) than wet wooden traps – yet heavier in the water (about 35 lbs. vs. 7 lbs.) This makes them easier to maneuver out of water and more stable in the water. The typical trap costs between $45-$60.

Here’s how a lobster trap works: A lobster will enter through the net “head” to go after the bait in a bait bag placed in the “kitchen”. When it tries to exit it lands in the “bedroom” or “parlor”. Some traps have more than one kitchen and bedroom. Traps are required to have an escape vent that is large enough to let all but the legal size lobsters escape. Traps also are equipped with runners that help prevent legs, claws and antennae from being pinched between the bottom of the trap and the boat when the traps are hauled. Most areas also require traps to have a biodegradable “ghost panel”. This panel will eventually degrade and release, allowing a large space for lobsters to escape from “ghost traps” (those that have broken free of their buoy lines and are therefore irretrievable).
Lobstering Basics - Equipment
In addition to the boat and the traps, there are various smaller pieces of equipment or gear regularly used by lobstermen.

  • Bait Bag: Originally made of cotton twine, and now typically made of nylon mesh, the bait bag is stuffed with the lobsterman’s bait of choice (typically herring) and hung inside the trap to entice lobsters to enter.  
  • Banding Tool: The implement used to put the rubber bands on the lobster’s claws.
  • Buoy: A floating device, the buoy is used to mark the location where a lobsterman has dropped his trap or trawl. Each lobsterman registers and uses the same color scheme on all of they buoys.
  • Gaff Hook: Tool used to snare a buoy and pull the attached warp or line up to the pot hauler.
  • Gauge: A measuring devise used to determine if a lobster meets the minimum and maximum regulations for a legal.
  • Pot Hauler: A hydraulic winch attached to the side of a lobster boat that is used to pull the traps out of the water.
  • Trap Warp: The rope or line used to connect traps to buoys and traps to traps in the case of a trawl.
  • V-Notch Tool: The implement used to make a v-shaped cutout in the tailfin of the lobster. The v-notch identifies female lobsters that are capable of bearing eggs.
Lobster Trivia:
  • 124 million pounds – The number of pounds of lobster that were landed in Maine in 2014.
  • 3 million traps – The approximate number of traps in Maine waters.
  • $200,000 – The cost of a fully-equipped lobster boat.
  • $80 – The cost of one trap with rope and buoy.
  • 3 8/32" min., 5" max. – The minimum and maximum size of a lobster that can be caught in Maine waters. 
  • 9-12 months – The length of time a female lobster carries its eggs.
  • About 5 – The number of 1 pound lobsters it takes to make 1 pound of lobster meat.

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