Glossary of Terms

Terminology can vary widely depending on what region of the coast you are in. The following is a list of some terms I've heard in Southern Maine.

berried female
A female lobster with its eggs attached to its swimmerets.
Lobster eggs.
Slang for lobster.
The shell covering the cephalothorax.
A lobster's head and thorax are fused. This term defines the area including the head and thorax.
A male lobster.
A lobster missing one or both claws.
Also 'aftman' or 'sternman'. The person responsible for emptying, baiting, stacking, and dropping traps as well as just about everything else that needs to get done except hauling traps and piloting the boat. A busy person.
Two traps on a single buoy.
A berried female.
Refers to traps, lines, buoys and other equipment used in taking lobster.
hard-shell lobsters
Has the hardest shell of all. They can be identified by looking at the underside of the claws of a live animal. Black mottling indicates that the animal has a hard shell and has not molted yet. Once cooked, you'll need nutcrackers to get the shell off.
A female lobster.
legal lobster
Currently a legal lobster (in Maine) is a lobster that:
  • has a carapace between 3 1/4 and 5 inches long as measured from behind the eye and straight back to where the thorax ends and the tail begins.
  • is not a berried female.
  • has 'pristine' flipper to the right of the center flipper, showing no V-notch, nicks, grooves, or indentations of any kind along its edge.
Some states are scheduled to increase the minimum size of legal animals over various time periods. In Maine, this means that the number of animals that can be taken will be reduced since the 5" rule for over-sized animals (which can not be taken) will remain the same.
Also 'Live-well'. A tank filled with seawater to hold caught animals. Rarely do boats have them under the deck.
lobster pot
see trap.
To shed the shell in order to form a new one to accommodate the animal's larger size as it grows.
new-shell lobster
A lobster that has recently molted and whose shell is still relatively soft. The shell is harder than a 'rubber' lobster, but softer than a soft-shell. You can feel the softness of the shell on the claws with gentle pressure. New-shells usually do not get bands put on their claws because they are so soft they can't inflict any damage to the other animals in the holding tank. Indeed some shells may be so soft that the band may crush the claw. You'll rarely (if ever) find these for sale. No one seems to want to buy a lobster that has no bands on it's claws.
see double.
A lobster missing both claws.
river gear
Similar to a triple but heavier and with a buoy at each end of the trap line. This rig is used in river entrances where tidal currents can be surprisingly swift and harbor traffic is high. Other vessels frequently run into buoys and may cut them loose from the traps. It is less likely that both buoys will get cut loose. The added weight helps prevent the traps from being moved around by tidal currents.
rubber lobster
Also called 'Jello-lobster' or 'rags'. These are lobster that have just shed their shells and the new shell has not yet hardened at all. They feel like soft rubber (hence the name) and are quite fragile.
soft-shell lobster
Harder than the new-shell. The claws have hardened enough to be banded. Once cooked, the shell can usually be removed with bare hands.
Lobsters that are too small to take legally.
One trap on a buoy.
see shorts.
spring tide
Tides of extreme fluctuation caused by the relative position of earth, sun, and moon. They occur with the full and new moons. For more infomation click here.
Refers to a group of seagulls. You can see a 'flock' of sparrows, but you always see a 'squabble' of gulls.
Also 'fish tote'. A box used to hold bait fish (and just about anything else that needs stowing).
A baited cage used to trap lobster.
A string of traps connected with line and layed with a buoy at each end. Eight- and ten-trap trawls are common.
A set of three traps on a single buoy.
V-tail or V-notched
Once caught, any berried female without a notched tail gets a notch cut in its tail and released. The notch is cut in the flipper to the right of the middle flipper. Any lobsterman catching a female with a notched tail (a 'V-tail') must release it, regardless of its size or whether or not it is berried. This is done to help identify breeding females and keep them producing while culling those females that do not produce. Not all states do this. Maine was the first to put it into practice. The notches eventually grow out after several molts.