My wife could easily see that I was fascinated with the entire concept of “lobstering” during our recent trip to Maine. Now grant you most lobsters are not caught by recreational sportsmen…rather, they appear in saltwater tanks at the local grocery store as a direct result of commercial fishermen who make a living pulling these “bugs” out of the sea. Still, the whole notion of catching lobster held a certain flair that captured my sporting imagination, if for no longer than a few days during a vacation last week that went by way too fast.
Actually it was lobsters that attracted my wife and I to choose the state of Maine as our summer vacation this year. My wife, Roberta, absolutely loves most types of seafood and so it was only fitting to take her to one of the best spots on earth to satiate that hunger. Personally I am not a huge seafood person, myself, but you have to love a place that cooks up most fish, shrimp, scallops and lobster only hours after it is caught. There’s nothing quite like fresh seafood to quickly spoil you when all you are used to is frozen fare from the local grocery store.
Now did you know that about 70% of the U.S. lobster market is served by fishermen from Maine? Yup, lobstering is that important up there. In fact, annually there is about 6,000 to 7,000 commercial lobstering licenses handed out by the Maine Department of Marine Resources each year. With each commercial fisherman allowed up to 800 traps, this amounts to an annual harvest of between 50 to 60 million pounds of lobster during the past few years. Talk about big business…you can quickly see why “lobstering” has a big economic impact to this eastern seaboard state.
Fortunately for the recreational sportsmen it is possible to do your own lobster trapping. Beginning in 1996 the Maine Legislature passed a measure that allows a noncommercial lobster and crab harvestor’s license to state residents allowing the enthusiast to set up to 5 traps provided they adhere to some very strict regulations. In fact, a competency test must even be passed before such a license is issued.
That concept sort of intrigued me even though I could never qualify to do such fishing (not a state of Maine resident). I discussed this recreational opportunity with a retired lobsterman and quickly learned just how sensitive this topic was among some career lobstermen. It seems some of the commercial fisherman do not take kindly to folks now able to dabble for fun in an activity they once did exclusively as a livelihood. Sort of reminds me how even back in my home state the subject of commercial vs. recreational fishing has long generated bad feelings among many participants.
And let me tell you…the stories of lobster thieves are quite famous in these parts. You’ve heard of cattle rustlers out in the western states stealing livestock and being dealt with harshly if they were ever caught. Well many feel that lobster thieves are even a worse character. Tales are numerous of shots being fired over the bow of boats suspected of stealing…while other tales describe a certain lobster justice practiced with shots being fired directly into the boats…and sinking them!!! That’s right. Folks caught or suspected of not playing fair are often dealt with by their peers.
But did you know that lobsters were once considered poverty food? Back in the 17th and 18th Centuries they were actually fed to prisoners and to servants…that is until many revolted and demanded they be fed lobster no more than three times per week. Early Native Americans even used the lobsters for fertilizer and to bait their fishing hooks. It wasn’t until dining on lobster became fashionable in Europe that they took on a much wider appeal in North America as a food worthy of dignitaries and socialites.
And so you are probably sitting there wondering what all of this really has to do with being a sportsman. Well, in general probably not much. My intrigue by the sport and activity of lobstering comes from living 1200 miles away in Minnesota and not seeing a life anything close to what is experienced when living along the Atlantic Coast. Sometimes activities that you know you will never get a chance to do can capture your imagination. And while the notion of trapping a small crustacean being baited with some decaying food on the bottom of the ocean might not sound glamorous to some, it sure is a change of pace from…oh, let’s say dry-land fox trapping here in the Midwest.
Now if this blog post did nothing else but start your mouth watering for some great, fresh seafood…well, then I apologize for teasing you. On the other hand, if you truly have a hankering for some seafood that you must satisfy, please note that it can arrive on your doorstep in less than 24–hours…just place your order here.
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.