For many Mainers, being part of a lobster fishing community is such a way of life that we take for granted the intimate connection we have with a wild food source. People “from away” are enthusiastically curious about the process of catching lobsters and what happens during a day out at sea. I grew up working as a sternman on my father’s boat during the summer months. When we returned to dock at the end of the day we would often be greeted by tourists, eager to learn more about our livelihood. I always enjoyed their questions about Maine lobster fishing. Some where straight forward, others were amusing and a few were considered a faux pas to people within the lobster community.
|A Maine Lobster Buoy. Photo Courtesy of Jayson Maker.|
Frequently Asked Questions about Maine Lobster Fishing
- How do you find your traps? A fisherman uses uniquely colored buoys to mark the placement of each trap. Navigational equipment or landmarks are used to guide the fisherman to his buoys.
- How many lobsters do you get in one trap? The number of lobsters a fisherman catches in a trap will vary dramatically based on the time of year and how the lobsters are running in a certain area. In the spring especially, it’s not uncommon for a trap to come up with no lobsters at all. In the good fall fishing, you can catch as many as ten to twelve lobsters in a single trap.
- How often do you haul your traps? A lobsterman will usually haul each of his traps at least once a week, often several times a week. In peak fishing, some fishermen haul their traps every day.
- How many traps do you haul in a day? The number of traps a fisherman hauls in a day varies depending on the weather, tides and time of year. On a light day, a fisherman may haul fewer than fifty traps. On a busy day, he’ll likely haul several hundred.
- What do you do with your traps and boat in the winter? Up to 70 percent of Down East fishermen take up all their traps in the winter months, when the fishing is at its slowest. During this time, the fishermen will perform needed repairs on the traps and repaint his buoys. Some fishermen haul their boats ashore for the winter as well. This is especially the case for fishermen with older or smaller boats.
- Why aren’t lobsters red when you catch them? When people think of lobsters, they most often think of the bright red creatures that are served up on dinner plates. But lobsters only turn red once they are cooked. While alive, a lobster’s shell is a mix of many pigments and looks greenish-brown in color. During the cooking process, however, the heat destroys all the pigments save the red.
- Do lobsters feel pain when you kill them? Lobsters do not feel pain when you cook them, as they have no brain and just a very simple nervous system. In order for an organism to perceive pain, it must have a more complex nervous system.
- Do lobsters cry when you put them in the pot? Lobsters actually don’t have vocal chords or any other means of vocalization so, no, they don’t cry. According to Dr. Robert Bayer, a professor of animal and veterinary sciences at the University of Maine and director of the research organization the Lobster Institute, any noise you might hear while a lobster is cooking is likely air coming out of its stomach through its mouthparts.
- How often do you eat lobster? Some people assume that lobster fishermen eat lobster every day. Yet each lobster a fisherman brings home to cook is money he must deduct from his weekly wage. So how often do fishermen indulge in lobster? Of the fishermen in my survey, almost 60 percent eat lobster less than once a month. Only 10 percent of the fishermen I surveyed eat lobster every week.
The Silliest Questions Down East Lobster Fishermen Have Ever Been Asked
- Why do you park all your boats in the same direction in the harbor?
- Are they fresh (in reference to the freshly caught lobster)?
- Do you bring in all your traps every night?
- Do you ever watch the lobsters going into the traps?
- Does it hurt if one bites you?
- Do you catch Alaskan King Crab?
Five Questions You Should Never Ask a Lobster Fisherman
- How many lobsters did you catch today?
- How many traps do you fish?
- How much money do you make?
- Where is the best fishing?
- What’s the best haul you’ve had this season?