One of the activities I was most looking forward to in Maine was taking a lobster boat tour. Lucky Catch operates tours out of the Portland Harbor. More than just a sightseeing boat cruise, Lucky Catch is an operating lobster boat company with lobster traps set in different parts of Casco Bay. A trap is attached by a rope to a floating buoy to mark its location. Each lobsterman has his/her own buoy colors, in order to identify the traps and they are checked every few days. Lucky Catch takes visitors on a tour of the Bay stopping at various traps and allowing them to help in the lobstering process. After being given rubber aprons and gloves the learning process began. The Captain and his two assistants were great in giving everyone a chance to participate.
In the picture above, our Captain hauls up one of the traps. Not all the ones we checked had lobsters in them. Some had only crabs or whelks. Lobsters are lured inside the traps with bait and they are designed so that it is easy for the lobsters to get in, but difficult to get out. Once caught and removed from the trap, each one is measured for the appropriate keeping size. The Captain showed us how to measure with a special gauge (below) starting from the rear of the eye socket to the end of the carapace (hard upper shell). The lobster has to be between 3-1/4” to a maximum of 5” with the larger lobster returned because they are thought to be stronger breeders. The lobster is also checked for the sex and females carrying eggs are returned to the water.
Each person on the boat was able to practice with the gauge to see if a lobster met the regulation. The next step was to band the lobster’s claws to keep them from grabbing, ouch! With a tool we got to twist a large rubber band on each claw.
Once a trap had been pulled and cleared, they were baited again using small fish that are placed in a net bag and then put inside the trap. Below, one of the young participants helps with the baiting. The kids didn’t seem to mind touching the slimy fish.
After baiting the traps, they were pushed back into the water and the boat continued on to the next trap. I learned that getting a license for lobstering is not very easy. Since only so many are available, potential lobstermen can be on a waiting list for years, even decades until others retire. It is also expensive for the equipment as each trap can cost as much as $100.00 and they can have as many as 800 traps in the water per time. Keeping track of 800 traps seems like an awful lot to me! A lobster boat can cost $200,000 and then there are bait, fuel and boat repair costs. I was curious how many lobster traps are in the water and looked for some information online. One site listed the number as three million in 2014. One thing I learned as we traveled through Maine was that lobstering is really a big business.
It was a scenic boat ride with views of the city of Portland, an old Civil War era fort on an island and a couple of lighthouses. We boated in close to Portland Head Light (below), the oldest lighthouse in Maine, commissioned by George Washington in 1790 and completed in 1791. When we finished our lobster tour we had the option to buy one of the lobsters caught on the trip at market price. I left with no lobster but great memories of this trip!
On another day, Mark and I visited Portland Head Lighthouse on the land. It is located in a very scenic area on the rocky coast. There is a trail that goes along the coast on either side of the lighthouse so you have great views from different locations and distances.
I am a fan of lighthouses, so I was glad to see this one!
That same day we also visited Two Lights State Park. This park is known for its extensive rock formations and expansive views of Casco Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. I mentioned in my last post how much I liked the rocky Maine coast and how much of it can be walked on because it is so shelf-life. This is very evident at this park and people were enjoying exploring all that accessible rock. A trail goes along the coast so there are many wonderful views.
In the picture below, you can see Mark up on the top of the cliff enjoying one of the views.
Thanks for reading! In the next blog, more adventures in Maine with L.L. Bean.