Swimming with the Lobster at a Maine Lobster Pound

Ever thought of swimming with the Maine lobster? That’s exactly what Captain Denis Habza did when he put on his scuba gear and entered the BBS Lobster Trap Company lobster pound in Steuben, Maine a few weeks ago.

Habza entered the water armed with a video camera and filmed what lobster life was like just below the surface at the Maine lobster dealer’s pound. Lobster pounds are large ocean pens or coves with significant water flow for live lobster storage. With an estimated 12,000 pounds of live Maine lobster in the pound that day, there was no shortage of “actors” to film.

Maine lobster pound
Steuben pound holds 120,000 pounds of live Maine lobster

Habza is the founder of Squalus Marine Divers,  a recurring, online marine video program, broadcasting internationally, via the Squalus YouTube channel. The program objective is to promote scuba diving in the North East while seamlessly integrating a message of conservation, education and stewardship of the sea. Steubin Maine is about 250 miles from the Massachusetts state line.

This time of year, the pounds keeper buys soft shell lobster when lobster are plentiful and stores them for sale when their shells have hardened in September. In late summer and fall, lobster is purchased and stored for sale during the winter.  The lobster is purchased directly at the pier from the fishermen. The fishermen can also purchase fuel and bait while they are offloading. The BBS Lobster Trap pound can hold more than 120,000 pounds of live Maine lobster ensuring ample supplies year round. This allows lobster lovers to order their favorite seafood even in the dark of winter.

The lobster pound is a delicate ecosystem that requires aerating, feeding, cleaning and protection from ice during the winter.  Bands are placed on the lobster prior to entering the pound to keep the lobster from harming one another.  As Captain Denis points out in his video, “lobster don’t like other lobsters.”  And based on the video, they don’t like divers either.  The lobster in the video get very aggressive.

Maine Lobster Fishing Season Starts with Early Shedder Catch

The weeks before Memorial Day mark the traditional start of the lobster fishing season in Maine and Massachusetts as thousands of boats all along the lobster coast begin heading out to sea each day to lay their traps and begin the harvest.

While the fishermen are happy to get going again, those already hauling traps have been surprised, according to reports.  They are catching an unusual amount of early “shedders,”  or new shell lobster.

Maine lobster boat leaves dock
Leaving the Dock in Steuben, ME

Although some Maine Fishermen operate year round, the lobster themselves become more active in the spring making them easier to catch.  Summer and fall are the prime months of the harvest, but all the fishermen start to get to work this time of year.

The experienced boat owners know the lobster traps will not be nearly as full in April and May as they will be in the summer when the water is warmer. For example, in April 2010 the state of Maine reported 2 million pounds of lobster were caught.  In August 2010, more than 20 million pounds were harvested.

But new shell lobster are dominating the catch now in Southern Maine.

According to reports, the number of “shedders” or soft-shell lobster being caught in Southern Maine is way above normal.  Normally the soft-shell lobster doesn’t show up until mid-June or July.  This month the reports show that 60 percent of the southern Maine catch is composed of soft-shell lobster, which is unheard of for this time of year.

Some experts think this year’s unusually warm winter and warm spring may have had an unusual effect on the lobster, causing the shedding season to start early.

Soft-shell lobsters have less meat per pound and don’t ship well because of their delicate exteriors. Lobster men get a lower boat price from wholesalers, who in turn charge stores, restaurants and consumers less for soft-shelled lobsters than for ones with sturdy hard shells.  Opinions vary on which taste better.  Soft-shell lobster meat is not good for some recipes and is too stringy to be cooked on the grill.

Carl Wilson, a marine research scientist and lead lobster biologist with the state Department of Marine Resources, told the Maine Forecaster the early arrival of shedders could just be an early kick-off to the season. But, it could also signify a change in the normal lobster harvest schedule.

During July and August shedders usually account for 80% of the Maine harvest, reports show.  This is because lobster fishermen follow the lobsters as they move from shallow water to deep water.  Soft-shell lobster is plentiful during those months and they are easy to catch because they are ravenous.  The lobster must eat constantly to grow into their new, larger shells.

No one knows what to expect or how this spring’s early shedding of shells will effect the overall lobster season. But for the fishermen out on the water early this season the shedders are coming early making the daily catch much bigger than normal for this time of year.  So for now, the Maine lobster fishing season appears to be off to a good start.


October is Maine Lobster Month


Maine and lobster often go together in people’s perception, so it was  an easy step for Maine Gov. Paul R. LePage to  today declare October “Maine Lobster Month.”
The Maine lobster harvest for the year nears its peak in October, according to Gov. LePage.  And since Maine is the home of the American lobster, the governor said it is time to celebrate.  And not just celebrate the joys of lobster to the palate, but the pride for the Maine lobster fishermen as well.
Maine Lobster and Steamer Clams a New England Favorite
 There are 4,260 licensed Maine lobster fisherman. In 2010 they caught a record 93 million pounds of lobster worth more than $310 million. This year officials are hoping for another record harvest.

 “Many people think of summer when they think of lobsters, but the fall is prime time for harvesting lobster, and it’s a crucial time for the industry,” says Dane Somers, executive director of the Maine Lobster Promotion Council. “Each year Maine lobsterman haul in about fifty percent of their annual catch in September, October and November, with October usually seeing the heaviest harvest.”
Gov. LePage said Maine’s picturesque harbors capture a special quality as lobster boats come and go in the pristine, natural environment.  The state leads in lobster fishery conservation and sustainability practices.  The Maine lobster fishery is one of the oldest and most important segments of the Maine economy.

A Steuben, Me. lobster boat leaves the dock.
While the harvest may reach its peak in October, live lobster are available year round.
During the winter the catch is stockpiled in large, natural salt water lobster pounds.  This is why lobster lovers can enjoy baking and steaming live lobster year round.  Many thousands of people enjoy lobster all during the holiday season and when winter snow is on the ground.

Food and Wine Fall Harvest Festival
But for now, folks lucky enough to visit Maine in October can enjoy both Mother Nature’s magnificent fall foliage and a fresh caught lobster dinner.  Portland, Me. is hosting a food and wine fest, Harvest on the Harbor Oct. 20-22, 2011.  If you can’t get to Maine,  fresh Maine lobster can be ordered online in the winter, spring, summer and fall and shipped overnight anywhere in the country.  Celebrate Maine Lobster Month.