Maine Lobster Laws- So What’s the Catch?

When the State of Maine is mentioned, chances are lobsters come into your mind. For ages, lobsters have always been a critical part of the commercial fishing of the state. In a single year such as 2008 alone, lobsters harvested brought in more than $244 million for 69.7 million pounds of the commodity.  There are diverse rules and laws surrounding lobster fishing which have to be followed. In fact, it’s recommended that before you find yourself violating any of the laws you need to talk or ask a Marine Patrol officer (Maine).

As a license holder, you also have the duty of submitting to search violations and inspections related to every licensed activity pertaining to lobsters. If you refuse to allow seizure or inspection it’s possible for any license you hold to be suspended (Maine Legislature). Before you catch any lobsters, be aware of the lobster laws of the land in the State of Maine.

You cannot receive a crab harvesting or non-commercial lobster license without being a State of Maine resident. With the license, you are allowed to transport or ship, possess, take and fish crabs and lobsters you have accessed. However, with a non commercial lobster you are not authorized to sell any lobster anywhere (Trails).

At the same time, non-commercial license holders cannot submerge over 5 traps for lobsters at any given time in the coastal waters of Maine; the total traps of five include traps for crabs.  A non-commercial license for lobster fishing can only be issued to only one individual who must have a minimum of eight years of age while making the application (Maine).

Remember that a non-commercial license gives the licensed person the chance to engage in those activities defined. Any individual who is unlicensed and fishing with you cannot engage in or assist you in any of the licensed activities of a license holder. Such restrictions pertain to diverse areas such as bags baiting between the hauling traps, measuring or banding lobsters, handling or hauling traps for lobsters fishing as well as boat operation while hauling the traps (Maine Legislature).

Maine Lobster Laws

There are also laws surrounding the methods of fishing lobsters. Firstly, it is a breach of the law to take or fish lobsters using any other method different from the normal lobster traps or fishing from any other platform apart from a vessel. A dock is not considered to be a vessel (Maine).

As you select the color of the buoy, it’s recommended that you ensure no other individual around your area is fishing using the same color patterns or the same color (s). The buoy you are using has to be permanently and clearly marked with the license number provided to you. The color design of the buoy must be shown on your boat in any of two ways (Maine Legislature):

  1. Display on a painted panel on both the boat’s sides and both sides of the hull before being attached to the frontal topside of the boat in a way that the color design is very visible from the two sides of the buoy. It’s also worth noting every color has to look like a color strip that’s solid, four inches high as well as a length of 18 inches adjoining a different color on the side its longest, to come up with a rectangle  with a single inch of black border upon every side.
  2. The other method of displaying the color design on the buoy is ensuring it’s a minimum of 12 inches in length and mounted in a way that the color design is very visible on either of the boat’s sides.

At the same time, you might want to remember it’s illegal to lift, transfer, raise or set a lobster buoy or trap unless it has been marked clearly with a license for lobster fishing.  Traps and buoys have to be marked visibly with the lobster license number (Maine).

Lobster fishing in closed periods

Hauling or raising lobster traps is illegal in closed periods. Essentially, it means it’s against the law of the state to haul lobsters half hour after dusk until half an hour before dawn from 1st of June to 31st of August.

It is also against the law to haul your gear for lobster fishing beyond Eastern Daylight Savings Time at 4pm on Saturday, until about thirty minutes before dawn the next Monday morning, between the beginning of June and the end of August with both days affected (Trails).

Penalties for undersized or oversized lobsters

Fishing undersized or oversized lobsters attracts a penalty while every violation attracts a $500 fine, including a $100 fine for the first five. Any lobsters above the first five attract a $200 fine; a case where the lobster numbers cannot be ascertained a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 applies. However a court can easily suspend any fine imposed for undersized or oversized fishing of lobsters (Maine Legislature).

At the same time, it’s illegal to own any kind of lobsters or parts of a lobster that have been mutilated in a way that accurate measurement is impossible (Maine).

Lobsters bearing eggs

The eggs of a female lobster once released stick on the tail of the swimmerets, between 6,000 and 100,000 eggs. As such, possessing or taking away a lobsters that is bearing eggs is unlawful and attracts a fine of $1,000 for every violation, including a $200 fine for every lobster bearing eggs you have, up to the first five. Above five each lobster attracts a $400 fine. In case you have so many egg bearing lobsters, the fine is a minimum of $2,500 and can be above $10,000.

However, if an egg bearing female lobster is liberated immediately while alive back into the coastal waters, there is no infringement of the law. Even removing eggs is illegal and attracts $1,000 for each violation and another $300 for any involved lobster.  Incase the number of eggs you have removed is not easily deciphered; the fine ranges between $1,000 and $5,000 (Maine Legislature).

Every lobster trap across Maine need to have a biodegradable panel of escape and escape vents. At the same time, lobsters have to be measured through the use of a gauge of double sides to ensure each lobster is a keeper. A gauge can be bought from any store supplying fishing gear. To catch the freshest Maine lobster without getting arrested be sure to shop on

Non-Commercial Lobster/Crab Harvesting License

For residents interested in acquiring a Non-Commercial Lobster/Crab Harvesting License can be obtained by contacting the following:

Department of Marine Resources Licensing Division
21 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-002

Works Cited

  • Maine. Licenses,
  • Maine Legislature. Lobster and Crab Fishing Licenses,
  • Trails. Regulations for Lobster Fishing in Maine,


        1. You should simply return the lobster to the seller and hopefully it will be returned to the sea. Since 1872, the harvesting egg-bearing females has been prohibited.

    1. You can check with the Department of Marine Resources.
      To obtain a non-commercial lobster license you are required to be a Maine resident.
      A. If registered to vote, is registered in Maine;
      B. If licensed to drive a motor vehicle, has made application for a Maine motor vehicle operator’s license;
      C. If the owner of one or more motor vehicles located within the State, has registered at least one of the motor vehicles in
      Maine; and
      D. If required to file a Maine income tax return on the previous April 15th, filed a Maine income tax return.

      To learn more see the Maine Department of Marine resources page on lobster licence requirements.

    2. Hi there! I’m writing a story that has a character who works on a lobster boat in Maine. I was wondering if June through August are the only months that lobsters are caught? And what do the people who catch them do during the other months of the year in order to make a living? Your website has been so helpful to me! Thank you for the information.

      1. That’s a great question. The short answer is that lobster fishing is year round endeavor in Maine. In fact a few brave souls will even set their traps in the dead of winter. The winter months will be more offshore lobstering, while in the summer it’s inshore fishing. Learn more about lobster fishing in Maine.

      1. It’s illegal for anyone but a licensed lobster fisher to do so, and NO one can pull for another. A parent can help a child with the boat, go with them, etc., but only the licensed person can pull a trap. If there are lobsters in a trap and the licensed person can’t pull them, family or etc should contact the Dept of Marine Resources for permission but last I knew it was so as to let the lobsters go. The fine is pretty high and they do manage to be around & appear, to check, so a call or visit is a very good idea. Extenuating circumstances may be considered, if they are contacted in advance.

    1. Sorry, the Maine DMR (Department of Marine Resources) makes it illegal for both commercial and recreational divers to catch lobster. In Massachusetts it is allowed, but you must be a resident and have a permit.

  1. hi,
    do the commercial lobsterman in Maine cut your traps like the commercial crabbers do here in Florida? the crabbers here act as if you have no right to set a few crab traps for your own use.

    1. For the majority of lobstermen and woman, lobstering is a livelihood, so the laws are strict for good reason. In the old days, you might get shot on the spot if you messed with a trap that was not yours. I could see how some commercial lobstermen might be angry at locals for encroaching on their territory. I am sure some commercial crabbers feel the same.

      Only Maine residents can apply for a recreational license, and a test is also required. You are allowed up to five traps and are NOT allowed to sell any of the lobsters you catch; and the lobsters are the use of the resident license holder only.

  2. While rules & regulations pertaining to such sought after commodities where there would likely be freeforalls & depletion of the lobster affecting commercial livlihoods, among others; these rules made me laugh out loud. They remind me of our local salmon, steehead, sturgeon rules with regard to the Columbia River in Oregon.

    We always joke that we need interpreters for all of the rules, and that the rules/regs are so convuluted:

    Sample faux rule:

    On the Oregon side of the mighty Columbia, on days that start with the letter “T,” you can catch anything between 7-22.5 lbs, unless the water temperature is below 50 degrees and the air is at least 70 degrees, then the fish has to be fin clipped and you have to stand on one foot while you cast out or troll the river. On the Washington side, on days that end in “S”, you must cross your eyes when setting barbless hooks & if the wind is blowing at all, you can only keep sturgeon over 10 feet long and if its raining or a month ending with the letter “R” anything is possible but, you cant keep anything that is considered a fish species.”

    Maine’s lobster rules seem just as complicated and/or convolluted. However, it saves us non-residents the time & effort of trying to figure anything out and instead sit our butts down at a local lobster eatery and enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor.

    1. Hi- no the lobster laws in Maine are pretty straightforward. They do not seem as complicated as your laws for fishing. In Maine and Canada lobster men and women follow the best management practices to maintain and sustain live lobster stocks along the North Atlantic coast. Unfortunately, outside environmental factors including warming waters and pollution have negatively impacted lobsters sustainability.

  3. I own a home in Maine and am subjected to exceptionally high property taxes and provide an tremendous amount of support to local resident income. Maine, with the condescending regional bigotry “from away” attitude does not allow me to trap a single lobster.

    The attitudes, laws, bigotries, taxes, and ignorance are destined to Down East Maine failing to be a viable contribution to Maine and the USA. The geography is the redeemable quality, the residents are a scourge on the beautiful land they trash and abuse.

    1. I’ve lived in many different regions of the country, and, without exception, local bias exists everywhere but particularly in areas frequented by arrogant, well-heeled weasels with nicknames like Dick. Now if all you want to do is trap a lobster or two, why don’t you head down to your local wharf and ‘splain to one of the fisherman how your “exceptionally high property taxes” (compared to CT, MA, NY?) should entitle you to trap some lobstas! My guess is he’d be more than happy to take you out on his boat and teach you a thing or two about his craft. Having now lived in Maine but one vacation season, I’ve joined the local bigots’ calendar-watch for the Tuesday after Labor Day.

      1. These laws are archaic and akin to ridiculous immigration laws. Rather than prohibiting any trapping by non-residents, there could be strict limits on the number allowed to catch each season/year, etc. the license could be more expensive for non residents. People should be allowed to responsibly fish/trap. How many lobsters would a person be able to consume if they are not allowed to sell them? (Which I think is reasonable if someone doesn’t have a commercial license).

  4. I am in Maine every Summer for a month.
    I would like to do some of my own lobstering.
    Is it true that I cannot set traps for lobster if I am not a resident of Maine


  5. As a native of Maine I would suggest Richard divest himself of his Maine property and find somewhere else to recreate. The fact that the good people of Maine are husbanding a vital resource is evidently lost on him.

    1. I am in total agreement with Tim’s statement. I’m sure some tourists may find us difficult, or set in our ways, but CERTAINLY not a “scourge” on OUR home state. I for one would gladly help Richard pack.

  6. Sorry, my point is, I will gladly follow any law/rule that Maine implements, as long as I get to enjoy the beauty! I also believe, if you are only a summer resident, you should buy your lobsters from a local boat/store, its what helps to keep locals in business, and without them, it wouldn’t be the same place! Buy local!

  7. I am a tourist, even though my husband’s family has owned a home in Maine, on an island. It was built by his great Grandfather, before the ferry service even existed. They have all spent their summers here, since they were born. My first time here, I was in awe, its beauty is unexplainable and magical! When it’s time to go, I don’t want to leave, I want to go fishing everyday, and watch the sunset over the ocean from the back porch. At high tide, the water is only 20 feet away! As a tourist, I am grateful to to be able to spend time any here, and I love buying lobsters right from the boat, when they come in! There is nothing on earth that tastes as good as a Maine lobster just caught! These lobstermem and women work very hard, I wouldn’t want to catch my own, and possibly take from someone else’s livelihood. I wouldn’t expect, or take kindly, to someone coming into my kitchen at the restaurant and ask if they can cook their own food instead of ordering from my menu!!

    Side note….people who live in Maine are not a scourge, they are friendly and kind, and a lot of people wave to every car they pass! I can’t say that about any other state!

  8. I work at a chain retailer as a meat cutter/seafood specialist. We got our shipment of live lobsters yesterday 09-15-2021. One of the lobsters we received is a obviously berried female. What can we do? It is a Maine lobster and I am in NC.

    1. Yes, an egg bearing female should have been thrown back. I would contact your supplier directly.You should also check if they can trace their catch. Thanks for reaching out.

  9. I used to live in Maine as a child up on Mt Abrams in Locke Mills- can’t help but read all of these comments with the “Mainerd “ “LAAAABSTAAAAA” draw.
    My best childhood memories were visiting the local lobster trucks at the Oceanside on fridays- and catching a few amazing stories from the experts about their craft- it was magical- intelligent kind unique hardworking people !!!!thank you for all of the information and the free reliving of memories.

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