When is Maine Lobster Season?

Cooked Maine Lobster

Is there a Maine lobster season? Many people are often surprised to find out when Maine lobster season is. While most may assume that it’s during the summer months, the answer is that lobster season is year-round. That said, though Maine lobstermen and lobsterwomen can fish throughout the year, there is a seasonality associated with the catch—a hard shell season and a soft shell season, an old shell and a new shell. More aptly, there is not so much a lobster season per se, but a peak season that accounts for the bulk of the annual haul, one linked to the time of year, a lobster’s growth, and its migration patterns.  

When is Maine Lobster Season?

Hard Shell vs. Soft Shell Season

Consumers may only know that there is a hard-shell lobster season and a soft-shell lobster season. They may not know which is which or when, but know there is a difference. Chances are they will participate in a lobster feed or an old-fashioned lobster bake sometime during the summer, which makes sense because of the warm weather. It is also the height of the bulk haul. That’s when the lobster harvest picks up, and trawlers are out from dawn to dusk. 

Today’s Live Maine Lobster Special

Inshore vs. Offshore Fishing

If there is one thing that does distinguish one lobster season from another, it is the distinction between inshore fishing and offshore fishing. The latter tends to be offshore during the winter, whereas the former occurs in the summer and fall seasons. This seasonality of lobster fishing is closely related to the thickness of a lobster’s shell. 

The density of a lobster’s shell varies during the year as it grows. By winter, a lobster’s exoskeleton shell has fully hardened and will remain so until it is ready to molt during the early summer months. In that time, from late November, lobsters migrate offshore into the deeper, warmer waters of the North Atlantic to grow comfortably into their hard shells. As summer approaches, as the waters along the coast warm, lobsters migrate back inshore to molt. They wiggle out of those hard, old shells and grow into the new, soft shells. 

Molting is essential for lobsters to grow, and that growth rate is affected by the water temperature. A lobster needs warmer coastal water to molt. After a lobster molts, it will often eat its calcium-rich exoskeleton to hasten the hardening of its new shell, which takes up to ten days to form. From late July through early November, a lobster’s shell remains soft as it grows into it.

Why Summer is Considered Peak Season

This is the peak season, and a confluence of factors drives it. The demand for lobster is greater during this period—it’s summertime, and more people are enjoying the warmer weather. It just so happens that more lobsters have migrated inshore during the summer months, that stretch of coastal or shoal waters which extend to 3 miles offshore, to molt. As the lobsters shed their old shells for new ones, they are hungry, and become active in search of food when the population density is at its greatest amidst the shoal water. Hungry, active lobsters competing for food are vulnerable and easier to trap.

Thus, peak season is driven by consumer demand, the abundance of lobster inshore, and a lobster’s increased appetite after molting, all converging when a lobster is characterized by its soft shell and at a time when it is most vulnerable to being trapped. More lobsters are caught, 80% to 85% of the annual haul, than any other time of year. The remaining haul, 15% to 20%, is done offshore during winter.

Lobster Season in Maine is All Year

Though there is no “official” lobster season in Maine, a seasonality relates to lobster fishing. One might say there is a hard-shell season, a soft-shell season, an inshore season, and an offshore season. Above all, there is a peak season, which runs from mid-summer to the late fall, when Maine lobstermen and lobsterwomen catch the most lobster.

For the highest quality fresh lobster from Maine, look no further than Klenda Seafood – we deliver lobster directly to your door! We also offer curbside pick-up at our South Portland location if you live locally – call for details and to place your order over the phone! Learn more about shipping methods and best practices, or contact us— we would be happy to answer any of your questions.