Wednesday, October 29, 2008
We're going out on a lobster boat! We're going with Capt Tom, he's a friend of your Grammie and Grandpa Rock. (Your Grammie made me a sweater and a hat because it's cold out on the water.) Lobster is a big food product in the state of Maine. It can be a dangerous job because you never know when a big wave or a bad storm will come up and swamp your boat.
To be a lobsterman (or lobsterwoman) in Maine, you need to have a lobster fishing license. These licenses are not easy to get as there are not many of them available. If your family has been lobster fishing for a long time, that's the best way to get a license. Many lobstering families have been fishing for lobster for many generations.
If you just want to take a few lobsters for your family, you can get a non-commercial license but you cannot have more than 5 traps at any time and you cannot sell the lobsters you catch. And you have to be a resident of Maine. So, your Grammie & Grandpa could get a license, but not your Mom or Dad.
Lobsters 'molt' or shed their shells 3-4 times/year as they grow. (Kind of like a hermit crab does.) When their shells are 'soft' the lobsters tend to hide under rocks and not crawl around a lot so it is not as easy to catch them when their shells are soft. They have less claw meat at this time as well, so they are smaller, but tastier. Their shells are usually soft early in the season, around June and July. Then they harden up but get soft again after they molt later on.
Lobsters come from eggs. The female lobster carries the eggs on the underside of her body, behind the 'swimmerets' under her tail. If you catch a lobster with eggs attached, you have to throw it back so the eggs can hatch and grow into adult lobsters. A lobster may have thousands of eggs but usually only 2 eggs live to grow up into adults.
Lobsters eat live fish like crabs and sea urchins. When lobster traps are baited, the fisherman usually uses bait fish (Which is pretty smelly. P-U!)
Lobsters come in a variety of colors, but they are only red once they are cooked.
Here is Capt Tom pulling in his lobster trap. We didn't catch any lobsters this time, just crabs. He threw them all back into the water!
This is a new kind of lobster trap. The older kind were made of wood. Sometimes you see those made into tables. These traps are plastic-coated metal. They are made so the smaller lobsters can get out. You can't keep a lobster that is too small, they have to be let go. You have to measure the lobster's carapace (the shell from the back of the head to the start of the tail) and it has to be longer than 3 1/4" to be a keeper. Most lobsters you get at a restaurant weigh around 1-2 lbs.
Lobsters used to grow REALLY big (30-40 lbs) before they became a popular food item. Lobsters are really giant bugs. So, if you've ever eaten a lobster, you've eaten a bug!
When you are out on a lobster boat you see lots of colorful buoys like this one in the water. (This one Grammie found on the beach, probably it got loose in a storm.)
What the lobsterman or woman does is attach this buoy to a line that holds around 10 traps. They'll drive the lobster boat along and throw the buoy out first and then each trap. At the end of the traps is another buoy that is the same color pattern as the first one. Each lobsterman or woman has his or her own pattern of colors so they know which traps belong to them.
If you go to Maine on vacation, you can go out on a lobster boat, too.