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.


Maine Lobster Boat “Retires” to New Life as Boston Party Boat

What happens when a Cranberry Isle, Maine lobster boat retires after 45 years of lobster harvests and fish seasons and takes on a new life as a party boat right in the heart of Boston harbor’s vibrant new seaport district?

the retired lobster boat belle
The Belle slips by the Northern Ave. swing bridge in Boston Harbor one summer evening.

Not so surprisingly, according to the cruise operators Charlie Gibbons and Diana Adame, the old lobster boat seems to have found the perfect new home.  Refurbished with attention to detail and lovingly set up to accommodate guests, the 50-foot “Belle” sparkles under the bright city lights.

“The boat was well known and fished for years out of Gloucester and even spent time in Connecticut,” said Captain Gibbons, a former tow boat captain and fisherman.  “I have worked these waters for 30 years and now I want to be able to share my knowledge and offer people a good, fun time.”

Boston Fun Cruises currently embarks from the wharf behind the Barking Crab Restaurant. The vessel is tucked behind the old Northern Avenue swing bridge.  Each cruise begins with the mighty bridge swinging its creaky, old iron rails open so the “Belle” can slip through.

Guests enjoying Boston Harbor Fun Cruise as they pass  the World Trade Center

With long sweeping lines, wide working decks and a heavy wooden canopy that stretches from the helm nearly to the stern, the boat provides an intimate vantage for up to 40 passengers.  The foredeck is deep and comfortable allowing guests to sit or stand and safely enjoy an open-air view.

Lobster boat on Cranberry Isle Maine
The “Belle” being built on Cranberry Isle, Maine in 1965
Lobster boat Belle at Rose Marine Gloucester
The “Belle” being refurbished at Rose Marine in Gloucester, Mass.

On a recent Sunday evening trip, passengers enjoyed views of everything from the new hotels and restaurants by Liberty Wharf to the imposing, brightly lit downtown skyscrapers.  A sunset canon salute was even observed while passing “Old Ironsides” in Charlestown; the USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned vessel in the US Navy.


To some observers, the Belle is easily recognizable as a Beals Island design, the type of seaworthy fishing vessel that has plied the waters of downeast Maine since the 1950s.   Gibbons said his boat was built in 1965 by boat builders Beal, Bunker and McCallister on Cranberry Isle. Both places are near one another and are famous for their lobster, lobster boats and lobster fishermen.

Harvesting thousands of tons of lobster and fish over all its years, the vessel finished up its fishing career in Gloucester, Mass and was refurbished in 2011.

“We did our restoration on the railways at Rose Marina in Gloucester,” Gibbons said. “With her mahogany and oak planking and all the extras used to prepare her for going to sea, you couldn’t afford to build a boat like this today.”

Boston Fun Cruises is scheduled to operate in spring, summer and fall with a special New Years Eve 2011 harbor cruise scheduled so guests may observe Boston’s famous fireworks.


Maine Lobster Season Casts Off with Hopes of Big Catch

The day after Mother’s Day is the unofficial start of the Maine lobster season, when just about every lobster boat fit to go to sea, goes to sea.  Last year’s 93-million-pound record catch will be hard to duplicate this year, but folks in the industry see plenty of signs another great Maine lobster season is ahead.
Already reports from Maine shrimpers and other observers are showing large numbers of baby lobster showing up uninvited in their nets.  And near shore, lobster fishermen report they are seeing high counts of baby lobsters in their traps. The little guests (baby lobster) are returned to the sea to grow, but their high numbers suggest a healthy harvest this year.

Lobster boat leaves Stueben, ME lobster pound.
A sunny warm spring helps to warm the shoreline waters which brings the adult lobster back in to feed where they are easier to catch.   So the warmer the spring, the faster lobster fishing season gets off to a start.  For lobster lovers awaiting their barbecues and lobster clambakes, the start of the lobster fishing season is always good news.
One challenge facing the lobster industry is the high price of fuel and bait.  High fuel prices and bait take a bite of the profits for the fisherman.  At the same time, fishermen fear that high gasoline prices leave folks less money to spend on going out to dinner, on vacations and for just plain buying lobster.  So the fishermen hope for both a good harvest and a strong market.  
To help manage supply and demand,  the lobster dealers load up during peak fishing season  by storing freshly caught lobster in large, natural seawater lobster pounds capable of holding millions of pounds of lobster.  This allows lobster fisherman to catch lobster while they are active in the summer and fall, and still meet market demands year round.
The Lobster Trap Co. operates four pounds and two buying stations located in Machiasport and Steuben Maine, providing access to 4,000,000 pounds of live lobster.  These subsidiaries are known as BBS Lobster Trap. In addition, the company operates numerous storage facilities throughout Canada providing holding capacities in excess of 2,000,000 pounds.   The Lobster Trap Company’s Cape Cod shipping facility offers more than 100,000 lbs of holding capacity.   Located in Bourne, MA the state of the art facility has fresh ocean water flowing through refrigerated tanks and returning to the ocean cleaner than when it came in. 
All of this ensures Lobsters-Online.Com customers the freshest supply of healthy, live Maine lobster ready to be shipped overnight to homes all across the country.  With lobster fishing season going into high gear, Lobsters-Online.Com will continue to offer all the best seafood value New England has to offer.