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Maine Lobster Season — An Overview of Each Season

Whether you live in New England, you like to visit, or you simply order live lobster online, you’re probably a fan of the succulent, flavorful lobster found in the cold North Atlantic waters off the coast of Maine. If you’re on the prowl for this sweet, meaty treat, you might naturally wonder, when is Maine lobster season?

In truth, there is no set season for fishing this popular crustacean. Lobstering happens year-round in this region, although certain seasons tend to be more productive than others for a number of reasons.

Whether you’re interested in summertime lobster boils on the shoreline, or you want to have live lobster sent inland via overnight shipping for your winter holiday festivities, you’ll be happy to hear your favorite seafood is always available. You might just need a strategy in place to ensure the type of lobster you want (soft or hard shell), as well as the best Maine lobster price. Here’s a handy guide to Maine lobster by the season.

What Is Maine Lobster?

Maine lobster isn’t exclusive to Maine, but it’s certainly associated with this coastal state. The species Homarus americanus, or American lobster, is found along the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada, from the island of Newfoundland to the shores of North Carolina.

This species differs from other regional lobsters in a couple of key ways. Maine lobsters are characterized by sweet, tender meat with edible portions in the claws, body, and tail, although Maine lobster tails are the most desirable.

American lobsters in the trap and ready for harvest.

Rock lobsters, also known as spiny lobsters, have only tiny, inedible claws, and their flavor is much milder. As stated, Canadian lobsters and Maine lobsters are the same species. Canadian lobster shells are harder due to the colder northern waters and the meat is not quite as sweet as lobsters off the shores of Maine.

Maine lobsters tend to have slightly softer shells, though, resulting in remarkably sweet and tender meat during any Maine lobster season, but particularly during summer. While Canadian lobsters can survive for up to about 72 hours out of the water, compared to roughly 48 hours for Maine lobsters, they simply don’t taste quite as good.

The Skinny on Maine Lobster Seasons

Maine lobster is fished year-round, but fishing activities are broken up into four main seasons: spring, summer, winter, and fall. The lion’s share of fishing takes place in late summer and early fall, but because lobster is in demand year-round, some fishermen still pursue these crustaceans into the winter and spring, battling inclement weather and offshore migration.

Market and wholesale lobster prices fluctuate based on supply and demand. In summer, for example, demand for lobster peaks, but this is also the time when lobster is in abundant supply.

It also depends on whether you’re looking for soft or hard-shell lobster, as these crustaceans molt during warm summer weather before building up harder shells to survive colder temps. Let’s dive a little deeper into what each Maine lobster season entails.

Spring into Action

The arrival of lobster on the shores of Maine will depend on how quickly the weather warms, but spring is not without fishing activity. The industry really ramps up in April, when lobstermen get their boats on the water to stake out prime territory for setting traps.

Fishing near shore isn’t typically very productive this time of year, but seasoned fishermen know this is a time to prepare for success during the busy months to come. As the weather continues to warm into May and June, heading toward the summer Maine lobster season, this early prep will start to pay off.

For consumers, spring is the perfect time to learn how to cook live Maine lobster via boiling, baking, grilling, and more before the bounty of summer sets in. If you get your hands on some early spring lobster as the migration to shore begins, make sure to take advantage of dropping prices. With warm days and cool nights, this is a great time to try your hand at a classic baked lobster tail recipe.

The Bounty of Summer

Late spring and early summer are ideal times to purchase lobster for outdoor soirees. By July, high summer demand may cause prices to increase, depending on the volume of lobster caught, so if you’re looking to try out a recipe for Maine lobster roll or a lobster salad recipe, this is a great time to experiment before prices go up.

Traps pile up on a dock in Southwest Harbor, ME.

There’s no shortage of succulent seafood to be had during the busy summer Maine lobster season, what with lobsters migrating close to shore in search of food and balmy weather making for ideal fishing conditions. However, the influx of tourists clamoring for this coastal delicacy is incredibly high, and this can impact pricing.

Something you should know, however, is that many people are after hard shell lobsters, which are in low supply during summer. Adult lobsters molt when it’s warm, exposing a soft shell. As a result, soft shell lobsters, called shedders, tend to be plentiful and less expensive than hard shell lobsters during summer. They have slightly less meat, but they’re just as tasty boiled or served in your favorite cold lobster pasta recipes.

Falling for Maine Lobster

Most people would agree that fall is the best time of year to partake in Maine lobster. During this primary Maine lobster season, demand starts to drop a bit, with tourists heading home, but catch volume remains high as lobsters linger near shore.

The water begins to cool, prompting the formation of harder shells. This desirable occurrence means two things. First and foremost, the harder shells mean lobsters bulk to fill them, resulting in extra meat. Secondly, hard shell lobsters live longer out of the water, making them much easier to ship to those who have left Maine but still crave sweet claws and tails.

Even with cooling temperatures, fall is a fantastic time to for lobsters in Maine.

Although cooling temps also cause lobsters to start their offshore migration to deeper waters, fishermen make the most of the moveable feast by setting traps to catch them on the go. Because of abundant supply and dip in demand, prices tend to remain stable or drop a bit during the fall, although they almost always go up again before the winter holidays.

Fall is a great time to work lobster meat into savory comfort food recipes as the cold weather drives you indoors. Maine lobster ravioli with browned butter or a parmesan cream sauce is divine, and a decadent lobster mac and cheese recipe will wow at your Thanksgiving table.

Weathering Stormy Winter Seas

When the frigid temps and inclement weather of winter roll around, you might despair of finding the juicy tails and traditional lobster rolls you’ve enjoyed throughout the year. While this season doesn’t necessarily entail a Maine lobster shortage, the truth is that the weather can definitely impact the availability of your favorite seafood.

The abundance of the fall Maine lobster season drops off heading into the winter as the hard-shelled crustaceans head deeper into the ocean in search of warmer waters. This, paired with the downturn in weather conditions, makes it difficult and far less cost-effective for fishermen to catch their prey.

This isn’t to say there aren’t a handful of hardy souls who continue to brave stormy seas, freezing temps, and a longer trek to lobster grounds, but many hang up their bibs and rubber boots for the season. While boats are moored in the harbor, fishermen take the opportunity to perform maintenance, including repairing traps and traplines, painting buoys, and so on.

In downeast Maine, lobstering is a year-round activity.

This time of relative hibernation is also ideal for experimenting with hearty dishes like Maine lobster bisque and delightful lobster thermidor. A smooth, creamy seafood soup is a warming treat on cold winter days, while lobster meat cooked in a rich wine sauce, then sprinkled with cheese and browned, is the rich, indulgent dish every holiday feast could benefit from.

Although summer and fall mark the height of Maine lobster season, supplies of fresh, live lobster will slowly taper into winter as the weather grows colder. This means you can expect reasonable pricing until November or December some years. While Maine lobster market price tends to increase near the winter holidays and peak into the new year, you don’t have to give up on adding lobster to the menu just because Labor Day has passed.

Any time you need Maine lobster delivered fresh to your door, you can count on Lobsters-Online.com to deliver. We ship fresh, live lobsters and other seafood overnight anywhere in the U.S., regardless of Maine lobster season.

article updated 7/14/2022