Lobster fishing has been entrenched in our history for centuries. In colonial times, it was seen as peasant food made for the lower class citizens.
That notion has shifted dramatically since those times. Lobster is now one of the staple seafoods across the country and we’re lucky to have such an abundant resource right here in our New England waters!
Lobster can be made into a variety of dishes, from simple boiled lobster dinner to the more elaborate clambake. There’s no limit to what you can make with these tasty aquatic "bugs".
Many people don’t realize that fishing for these crustaceans is not only for the commercial fleet. Recreational fishermen, like myself, can do it too.
In this article, I'll share with you 8 tips for getting started recreational lobstering in Massachusetts.
Tip 1: Know What You're Getting Into
Recreational lobster fishing is a big investment of time and money for a beginner. I am fortunate to have easier access to the ocean than most, but this does not make the time, labor, and money any less demanding.
There are many components that add up in lobstering-between gear, rope, floats, gas etc, so you may ask yourself is this worth the investment? Would it be easier and cheaper for me to buy them from the store?
The answer to that question is yes, but the experience and memories you make while lobstering is like none other.
Each lobster trap has its own little surprise, whether that be 5 keeper lobsters in one trap, or even 5 keeper tautog. You never know what lies inside!
Tip 2: Learn the Regulations
Lobsters are a highly regulated fishery and there is not much leeway if you’re found to be in violation.
There are many regulations in terms of minimum and maximum size requirements, what you can and can’t keep (i.e. egg bearing female lobsters and V notched female lobsters) and gear requirements.
For example, if you look closely at the underside of the lobster in the photo below, then you will see it is bearing eggs. A lobster like this one must be released.
There are also different regions in which recreational lobstering is permitted. The map below is up to date as of March, 2021.
In the next two images you'll see the different regulations for size, gear, etc. You can click on an image to open a large resolution version of each table.
You can also click here to see the entire list of regulations found on the Massachusetts Saltwater Regulations website.
Tip 3: Bait 101
Being an avid recreational lobsterman, I often ask fellow fishermen what they do with their fish carcasses, and I always cringe when the answer is that the carcasses ended up in the trash can.
Where others see trash, I see a potential meal on my plate. Whenever the opportunity presents itself I always save those smelly fish carcasses for use as lobster bait.
You can also buy flats of mackerel or pogies at most bait shops, but it can get costly. Another idea is to ask around seafood markets or processing plants where leftover fish racks and skins often go to waste.
I have tried numerous types of fish carcasses, but in my opinion the best lobster bait are the "very oily species" such as bluefish and mackerel. Stripers and any type of bottom fish will also make for great bait.
Some of the more interesting baits I’ve experimented with in the past would include:
These baits tend to work very well for crabs, and can be effective for lobsters as well. However, I would recommend sticking with oily fish carcasses for the best results.
I also highly recommend investing in a freezer strictly for your lobster bait. I would not store the bait with your groceries and food. If you have no other options, then wrap the bait up well, because you don’t want those fish carcasses leaking everywhere.
Tip 4: Lobster Locations & What To Look For
Lobsters are nocturnal scavengers and they don’t often venture out of their burrows during the day.
I always fish my traps near structure, which is often rocks and boulders. Lobsters burrow under rocks and hang in them during the daytime. At night is when they venture out in search of food.