GENERALLY speaking, the native Maine fisherman is a person of honesty, character, and self-reliance as well as a shrewd observer and good judge of human worth. Fishermen are also friendly, in our experience, and will go out of their way to help you. More than once, a lobsterman has pointed out a ledge we were approaching, suggested the best place to anchor, or told us whose mooring to use for the night. On the other hand, fishermen have a job to do, and they have little time for demanding yachtsmen or their complicated needs.

Lobsterboats often run in circles as they haul their traps, and they may appear to be shooting off in unpredictable directions. Or they may be hauling or setting a string of traps that are joined together, usually set in a line parallel to the shore.

The lobsterman uses a hydraulic hauler to bring each trap aboard. He discards seaweed, crabs, female lobsters carrying eggs, and lobsters that are too short. The trap is rebaited and dropped over the side—then on to the next trap.

Each lobsterman has his own buoy colors, registered with the state and displayed by a buoy mounted on his boat. You can scan the waters for his colors and guess which way he’ll head next. Even so, he may surprise you. Stay clear, give him plenty of room, and forget your right of way. These people are earning a living.

Never haul a lobster trap, even if you are merely curious or plan to leave money. If there are higher laws in this world, most lobstermen would put this one at the top of the list. Offenders might find their mooring lines mysteriously cut and little sympathy on the docks.

Click here to see a lobster trap in action via a lobster cam.

Lobstering is not the only fishery in Maine. Fishing boats may be towing nets or scallop drags astern and be unable to stop or alter course. Don’t insist on your right of way. Be alert to the rare possibility of nets strung across the mouths of coves or in circles marked by little floats and dories. Fouling a net could be a real mess, and an expensive one, especially if you release a large catch. Boats close inshore may be tending urchin divers, and their dive flags may or may not be visible. Farther Down East and in Canada, weirs and fish pens cram the sides of most coves, so unfamiliar shores should be approached with caution.

Many harbors in Maine shelter yachts and fishing boats side by side in peaceful coexistence, but there are also strictly working harbors, jammed full of lobsterboats and draggers, with no facilities for yachts. Cape Porpoise, Mackerel Cove, Friendship, South Bristol, and Carvers Harbors are good examples, as are most of the harbors east of Mount Desert.

For the yachtsman, working harbors can be difficult. They may have no guest moorings, no yacht clubs, no fuel floats. A great bustle of lobsterboats come and go. For this very reason, the working harbors are fascinating places to visit. These communities have a culture and a language all their own, where self-sufficiency and reticence are a way of life. This is Maine the way it has been for 200 years.

When visiting, try to adapt to the local mores. Don’t feel you have the absolute right to be there. Don’t demand to be serviced. Give way to the lobsterboats at the fuel dock, and wait for a lull in the activity to seek services and ask questions. Perhaps the less help you expect, the more you will get.

Navigating through lobster buoys.

Maine lobster rules and regulations.



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A Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast, Hank and Jan Taft, Curtis Rindlaub