Is there a lobster season? A best time of year to buy and eat Maine lobster? The answer is yes. While lobster can be caught all year long in Maine, there is a peak season when Maine lobster is most abundant and has the best flavor – this season is from mid-summer to mid-fall, when lobsters have freshly shed their shells. New shell lobsters, called ‘shedders’ to us Mainers, are even sweeter and more succulent than normal Maine lobster. Many foodies consider them a seasonal delicacy. Below is my ‘insiders’ overview of the Maine lobster season – an intimate look at the the ebb and flow of lobster fishing throughout the year. Enjoy!
The Maine Lobster Season
Lobster Fishing In Spring – Setting Out The Traps
The lobster fishing season in Maine usually kicks off in April. As spring fills the air, lobstermen fill their boats with traps and head out on the ocean to set their gang. The months of May and June are slow for fishing as the water continues to warm but it is important for lobstermen to mark their territory before the kickoff of the main lobster season.
Lobster Fishing in Summer – The Maine Lobster Season/Shedding Season
By mid-to late July the Gulf of Maine begins to warm up significantly which triggers the seasonal molt. As the lobsters shed the confines of their old shell, they grow in size. For the first time, many of these lobsters become large enough to meet Maine’s strict size requirements for harvesting. Newly shed, or ‘new shell,’ lobsters are also very hungry which makes them perfect for trapping. And they are also perfect for eating. The meat of a new shell lobster (frequently called soft shell in restaurants) is the sweetest, tenderest lobster you’ll ever taste. Many tourists flock to Maine in the months of July, August and September to experience the nirvana of the Maine lobster season. Roadside lobster shacks serve up succulent lobster rolls and shore dinners while towns like Rockland and Winter Harbor host lobster festivals in celebration of the seasonal harvest.
Lobster Fishing in Autumn – Boom Time
Fall fishing is the busiest time of year for a lobsterman. As the ocean begins to cool and the shells of the newly shed lobsters become more firm, these ‘hardened up shedder’ lobsters migrate towards deeper waters offshore. As they do, the fishermen are there to catch them. During autumn, a fisherman and his sternman will leave dock well before sunrise and return well after sunset. They haul their gang of traps at least two or three times a week, clearing each trap of a bounty of lobsters in order to make room for more. They also shift their traps around frequently to catch ‘runs’ of lobsters as they move across the ocean bottom. The weather is often fierce but so are the fishermen as they seek to maximize their catches before the end of the lobster season.
Lobster Fishing in Winter – Make and Mend
By mid-to late December the lobsters thin out and the weather becomes so tempestuous that most fishermen decide to end the season. They haul up their gang of traps and bring them back to dry land until the next spring. Most fishermen leave their boats mooring in the harbor over the winter and spend the winter months repairing their traps, overhauling their trapline, painting their buoys and resting up for the next season.
To read about previous Maine lobster seasons, including the lobster catch and price of lobster in Maine in previous Maine lobster seasons, click here.