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Maine Lobster 101: Seasonality and New Shell
Although some lobstermen fish year-round, the annual period of time when lobsters shed their old shell and grow into their new shell is considered “peak season” in Maine. Krista Tripp, a lobsterwoman from Spruce Head, Maine, talks about the seasonality of lobster and what fishing is like when New Shell season arrives.
Is there a “Lobster Season”?
Krista Tripp: Peak season, or New Shell season, is when lobsters are getting their new shells. This generally happens between June and July, which is when the industry is booming. In my region, it usually lasts until September but it varies based on weather. We know it is peak season when the lobster harvests pick up, almost overnight. It’s like a light switch. Lobster fishing does happen year-round in Maine however, off-shore fishermen tend to be year-round because of the migration of the lobster. In-shore fishermen are less likely to stick around for the winter season.
When does peak season start?
KT: The peak can fluctuate. If it’s a cold winter it can be a late spring. Sometimes it will start in the middle of June instead of July, but it’s all-around a similar time — you can count on it. There’s so much talk among fishermen, guessing what’s happening in the season. That’s what keeps it fun and interesting.
When New Shell season is upon us, you just kind of know. You’ve been waiting and waiting, and overnight your traps will be full.
Describe a typical day during peak season.
KT: I get up at 4 a.m. and am on the water by 5 a.m. I head out and, during peak season, I try to haul as many traps as I can as fast as I can because that’s how I catch the most lobster. I put in my longest days during peak season because that is when you catch the most lobster. When the harvest drops off, I can take a little bit of time off because I am waiting for a new bunch of lobsters to migrate in.
Do lobsters taste different depending on the time you harvest them?
KT: New Shell lobster is sweeter, but they all have great flavor. I think it is important for people to try both Hard Shell and New Shell because they have different consistencies. In the end, it all tastes like lobster, but New Shell is definitely sweeter.
Does New Shell taste different depending on when you eat it, even during peak season?
KT: The consistency of it can definitely be different. I’ve had somewhere the shells are like paper-thin, you could basically peel it off.
Do you have any personal preference?
KT: I personally love right when they start shedding, that’s when the flavor is the best.
Are you fishing in different places during the peak season months? Are you following the lobsters when they migrate?
KT: It depends on the fisherman and what their game plan is for the season. We all have certain areas that we fish. Everyone fishes differently.
Some people do chase the lobsters, some people will wait around. You can jig them around a bit or pick them up and move them around a bunch. Some people move loads of traps and end up completely missing them. It varies.
With my traps, there have been times I’m right on and there are times I have thought ‘why did I do that.’
What is the craziest superstition you’ve heard about trying to predict peak season?
KT: The most common one I’ve heard is on a full moon, lobsters will come up to the top of the underwater shelf or rock pile they’re on. They come out of hiding almost.