What Are Lobster Traps?

Cindy Quarters

Lobsters are crustaceans that live on the ocean floor in many parts of the world. Once considered a food that only poor people would eat, lobsters have become a delicacy in the United States and many other parts of the world. In places where they have commercial value, fisherman put out lobster traps that lure these odd-looking creatures in and won’t let them crawl out again.

Commercial lobster boats have pulley systems that allow traps and buoys to dropped into the water and retrieved again.
Commercial lobster boats have pulley systems that allow traps and buoys to dropped into the water and retrieved again.

Lobster traps come in many different designs and are made of a variety of materials. One of the most common styles is a wire trap, either square or rectangular, that is completely enclosed except for an opening on one side. The opening is large and is placed so that lobsters can easily crawl into it. Inside, the opening has a wire funnel that allows for easy access into the trap, but has only a relatively small opening at the other end, and the opening is placed high enough that the lobsters cannot crawl back put through it, even if they could find it.

Old-fashioned lobster traps were made from wooden slats.
Old-fashioned lobster traps were made from wooden slats.

Old-style lobster traps were made of wooden slats, with openings for the lobsters to get in but no way for them to get out again. Escape efforts were foiled by wooden baffles or netting placed so that once the lobsters got into the trap they were not able to leave again. Some such lobster traps are still in use today, but for the most part the old, wooden lobster traps are used for decoration and not for fishing.

In order to attract the lobster to the lobster traps, chunks of fish or chicken necks are used as bait. Before tossing the lobster traps into the water, the fishermen attach weights to them so that the traps will sit on the bottom of the ocean, waiting for lobster to find them. Long ropes connect the traps to brightly colored buoys that float on the surface, marking the spot of each of the lobster pots as well as identifying, by color or markings, who owns it.

To harvest the lobster, the lobster pots are pulled to the surface by their ropes. This can be done by hand but is often handled by a powered pulley that does the heavy lifting, leaving the fisherman to guide the pot and handle the rope. Once the lobster pots are retrieved they may either be stored on the deck of the boat and moved to another location or rebaited immediately and dropped in the same spot. The deciding factor is usually how many lobsters are in the pot when it is pulled up, and a good catch in any location means the lobster traps will be placed there again as soon as possible.

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