Our son-in-law Matt was doing some research for a project and came across the following super interesting article about the history of lobstering. Some of the information I knew and there is lots I didn’t. I hope you find it informative, too.
I was reminded of this video of a blue lobster, caught by Captain Dave Jewell of the Lady B., where Joey describes the difference between a male and female lobster.
From the Gulf of Maine Research Institute
Long ago, lobsters were so plentiful that Native Americans used them to fertilize their fields and to bait their hooks for fishing. In colonial times, lobsters were considered “poverty food.” They were harvested from tidal pools and served to children, to prisoners, and to indentured servants, who exchanged their passage to America for seven years of service to their sponsors. In Massachusetts, some of the servants finally rebelled. They had it put into their contracts that they would not be forced to eat lobster more than three times a week.
Until the early 1800s, lobstering was done by gathering them by hand along the shoreline. Lobstering as a trap fishery came into existence in Maine around 1850. Today Maine is the largest lobster-producing state in the nation. Though the number of lobstermen has increased dramatically, the amount of lobsters caught has remained relatively steady. In 1892, 2600 people in the Maine lobster fishery caught 7,983 metric tons; in 1989, 6300 Maine lobstermen landed 10,600 metric tons of lobster.
Smackmen first appeared in Maine in the 1820s because of increased demand for lobsters from the New York and Boston markets. Smackmen were named after their boats, a well smack. Smacks were small sailing vessels with a tank inside the boat that had holes drilled into it to allow sea water to circulate. The smacks were used to transport live lobsters over long distances.
The first lobster pound appeared on Vinalhaven in 1875 and others quickly followed. Lobster pounds work in the same manner as the smack boats. The lobsters are kept in tanks with water passing freely through them. The first lobster pound was in a deep tidal creek, but today they are more common on docks floating in the harbor. Using the pound, dealers can wait for the price of lobster to increase or allow a newly-molted lobster time to harden its shell.
By the 1930s, the traveling smackmen were being replaced by local, land-based buyers who served as the link between the harvesters and the public. –