Lobster fishing is hard, physically demanding work. It involves long hours, harsh weather conditions, and an unpredictable and unforgiving work environment. The men and women that go out to sea to catch our favorite crustaceans put themselves through a lot of tough physical and mental work. Although, it’s a difficult job that only some are cut out for, ironically the method of actually catching the lobsters is pretty simple. I’m talking about the lobster trap itself.
Being invented over 200 years ago, this contraption hasn’t changed much since the 1800s. The only major change to the lobster trap is that instead of being built with wood, we now use plastic or metal frames. However, their function and basic design have remained the same.
So, how does a lobster trap work? It’s very simple. Lobsters walk along the ocean floor in depths from 20 to 100 feet. Lobster traps are made for the lobsters to walk right into the trap, it’s easy for them to walk in, but once they are the funnel design of the trap makes it so they cannot walk out. Most lobster traps have two inner compartments, one is known as the kitchen and the other as the parlor. The lobsters enter the trap through a door that leads to the kitchen that is where the bait is located. The lobster retrieves the bait from the bait bag and once it grabs the bait it attempts to exit the kitchen through a second door that leads to the parlor. Here is where the lobster becomes trapped, both doors are funnel-shaped, which makes them easy to enter but very difficult to exit, this funnel design keeps the lobsters from leaving the trap so that is where they stay until they are hauled up onto the boat.
Baiting the lobster trap is also very simple. The lobsterman places a piece of fresh or salted fish in the kitchen compartment of the trap. The bait is normally put inside a bait bag that hangs in the trap. Once the traps are all baited and ready to go out to sea, they are taken out on the lobster boat and lowered to the ocean floor on a rope with a floating marker buoy at the other end. These markers are usually colored or have numbers on them so the lobstermen can easily identify which traps belong to them. There are regulations to lobster fishing and all lobstermen must follow them accordingly. Depending on where you’re fishing the size of the lobster must measure up or the lobsterman must throw them back. Lobster traps nowadays have small vents or openings in them in the parlor section of the trap and this allows undersized lobsters to escape, leaving the larger ones trapped. This simple design takes the credit for bringing you your favorite wild caught Maine lobsters, lobster tails, and lobster meat!
So, although the profession of lobstering is a hard job to do, the method of actually trapping the lobsters is a pretty simple one. The lobster trap is a method that works and has stood the test of time (200 years!) Now, when you go to eat your fresh, Maine lobster you have a little insight as to how these critters are caught. What’s also really cool is there are multiple video tutorials and step by step instructions on how to build one of these contraptions yourself! So, if you’re looking for a fun DIY project or craving a taste of the Maine scenery, you can have a piece of Maine with you in your home!