Island Stories: Lobster PEI
Day in the Life of a Lobster Fisherman
Cracking open the shell on that first lobster feed for the season is a magical moment. For visitors, it’s a full-on sensory experience that looks, feels, tastes, sounds and smells just like an Island vacation. For Islanders, that first feed of lobster goes much deeper than the senses.
Lobster fishing has been a way of life here for more than 150 years. It’s not uncommon to see boats head out to pull traps in-season with three generations of crew aboard, all from a single family. Entire communities were built around the fishery, and it still shows in the quaint seaside villages all around PEI!
Bringing the next lobster feast to your table are more than 1,200 lobster fishers and sails out of 45 port communities during the spring and autumn lobster seasons. We caught up with a local fisher to get the rundown on a typical morning out at sea.
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP. That lovely wake up call. Roll over and check the weather. Looks like another great fishing day. I text the crew to meet me at the boat then begin the day with breakfast and a few cups of coffee.
I get to the boat and fire up the engine. The day’s bait is already aboard and so is my crew. We set sail for about 5 miles off shore. Look at the glow on the water from that sun coming up. This season I had a feeling the lobsters would be good in 60’ and, knock on wood, so far, so good. We’re already ahead of last year at this time and ¼ way through the 60 day season.
We get to the first buoy and start hauling in traps and then it’s a steady few hours of: pull the buoy, haul the traps, remove the lobsters, rebait the traps, drop the traps again. All along, we’re measuring and looking for female lobsters holding eggs – those go back in the water along with any lobsters that aren’t big enough to keep. Those females with eggs are especially precious cargo – they’re vital to a healthy and sustainable fishery. Hard to believe they can hold between 8,000 and 100,000 babies.
We’re an hour in and we’ve pulled 80 traps so far. Each trap is about 150lbs when wet with as much as 5lb of lobster in a full trap, that’s 12,000lbs of weight we’ve hauled around so far today with 220 more traps to go. A few more hours and it’s lunchtime. We’ll be good and hungry by then.
A fisherman’s lunch. By 9am we are starving and ready for that sandwich and bottle of water. Day is ½ done now and weather is starting to pick up. We always say that’s why we go early, wind typically picks up at daylight or 10am. So nice to have ½ our day done.
All 300 of my traps have been emptied and now it’s back to shore. The sun is high now and it’s a quick sail back.
We’re back at the wharf and the day’s catch is all sold to our local buyer. I buy some bait for tomorrow and we call it a day. All that’s left to do is refuel the boat, pick up supplies, relax, and recharge to do it all again tomorrow.