How to Catch Lobsters

One Methods:Catch Spiny Lobsters

Recreational fishers interested in catching lobster should tailor their fishing method to the type of lobster they're targeting. There are 2 main types of lobster: clawed lobsters and spiny lobsters. Clawed lobsters generally live in the coastal waters of colder regions, such as the United States' northeast coast and the Canadian Maritimes. Anglers can find spiny lobsters in warm water areas like the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Florida Keys and off the California coast. Most people dive for spiny lobster or use hoop nets, while they use lobster traps, also known as lobster pots, to catch clawed lobsters.


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    Decide where you want to fish for lobster. The location you chose will influence your lobster catching strategy since it determines the lobster species available and fishing regulations you will need to follow.
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    Find out when the lobster season occurs for your region. In Northeast North America, it is typically June through October, while the season in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Californian coast usually ranges from August to March.
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    Apply for a license to catch lobster.
    • Find a government agency or other location where you can apply for your license. You may be able to purchase your license at a local bait and tackle shop or marina.
    • Fill out the application and pay any application fees. Some agencies may also require you to take and pass a test to receive a license.
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    Familiarize yourself with lobster fishing regulations.
    • Note the number of lobsters you are allowed to catch per day.
    • Check for time limits. Many locations will not allow night diving to catch lobster. Common time spans for lobster fishing are sunrise to sunset.
    • Determine the number of lobster traps you can use at 1 time. There are also regulations for the number of lobster traps that you can have on a single fishing boat.
    • Map out any areas that are off limits for lobster fishing. Check for marine preserves and other protected areas before setting off on a boat for a day of lobstering.
    • Learn the size limits for caught lobsters. Many areas will fine you if you keep under- or over-sized lobsters.
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    Learn where lobsters like to hide. Lobsters generally hide during the day and hunt nocturnally.
    • Look for clawed lobsters in coastal waters from 4 to 50 m (13.1 to 164 feet) in rocky areas, especially those with ledges or crevices.
    • Check rocky environments such as rocky reefs for spiny lobsters.
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    Gather your lobster catching gear.
    • Make sure you have a lobster trap, heavy-duty gloves, a lobster gauge and a catch bag if you are targeting clawed lobsters.
    • Bring heavy-duty gloves designed for underwater use, a tickle stick, net, lobster gauge, a catch bag, and either snorkeling or scuba gear or a hoop net if you target spiny lobsters.
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    Find a fishing boat. Chartered boats are often available, as well as rentals, or you may own a fishing boating.
    • Follow any licensing requirements. Some areas require you to have your license number showing somewhere on the fishing boat.
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    Take the boat out into the coastal waters. Choose an area with a rocky environment.
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    Prepare your lobster trap. Lobster traps generally have 2 compartments. The first compartment has 2 funnel like openings and an area where you place the bait. The lobster enters 1 of the openings to eat the bait and then enters a third opening which leads to the second compartment of the trap.
    • Put bait in the bait compartment. Don't use offal-many regions have regulations against this. Use dead fish.
    • Make sure your lobster trap meets current regulations. Lobster traps should have an escape hole so that under-sized lobsters can easily get out of the trap. Also check for a biodegradable escape/ghost panel. This is an area of the trap that will eventually disintegrate in case the trap gets lost. This allows any caught lobsters to get free of the trap so they won't die.
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    Attach tags to your trap. You may need to write your license number on the tags.
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    Attach a buoy to the trap. Label the buoy clearly with your name or initials and your license number with paint or a permanent marker.
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    Lower the trap.
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    Prepare and place your remaining lobster traps.
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    Check the traps for lobster later in the day.
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    Use the lobster gauge to measure any caught lobster. A lobster gauge is a metal or plastic metal measuring device that measures the carapace, or body shell, or a lobster.
    • Wear gloves.
    • Read your region's recommendations on how to measure before you begin lobster fishing. Some regulations state that you should begin measuring behind the lobster's eye stalks, and some measure from the center area between the lobster's horns.
    • Place the gauge at the top of the carapace. Read the measurement at the area where the carapace meets the lobster's tail.
    • Refer to your area's regulations to determine whether or not the lobster is over- or under-sized.
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    Place measured lobsters in your mesh catch bag. Close the bag tightly to prevent lobsters from escaping.

Catch Spiny Lobsters

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    Decide whether you will dive or use a hoop net. Check your area's regulations to make sure hoop nets are allowed for lobster fishing.
    • Hoop nets are composed of 2 metal rings with a collapsible metal netting between them.
    • You can scuba dive or snorkel for lobster from the shore, known as beach diving, or from a boat.
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    Use a hoop net.
    • Go to an area where you want to lower the net. People generally lower their hoop nets from boats, but some do so from surfboards.
    • Make sure you are wearing heavy-duty gloves to protect your hands.
    • Place an aromatic or oily bait in the bait pouch at the bottom of the net. Good options for bait include anchovies, sardines, Pacific mackerel, or even raw chicken or a perforated can of cat food.
    • Keep a firm grasp on the line on top of the hoop net and lower it into the water. Lower to the bottom.
    • Attach a buoy to the line on the net to mark the net's location.
    • Wait 10 to 15 minutes to allow lobsters time to enter the net.
    • Pull the line up slowly. Check for lobsters in the net.
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    Snorkel or dive for spiny lobster.
    • Put on your snorkeling or scuba gear and make sure you are wearing protective gloves.
    • Choose a location to look for lobsters.
    • Scan the areas under rocks, coral and ledges for lobster antennae. Remember that most lobsters will be in hiding during the day.
    • Take out your tickle stick. A tickle stick is a narrow stick you use to help safely dislodge a lobster from its hiding spot.
    • Stick the tickle stick into the crevice where you see the lobster. Use a sweeping motion to encourage the lobster to move.
    • Grab the lobster with your hands, or use a net to catch the lobster.
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    Measure your spiny lobster to make sure it is the right size.
    • Take out your lobster gauge and place it on the carapace. Measure the length from the top to rear end of the carapace.
    • Release the lobster if it is under- or over-sized.
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    Place lobster in your catch bag.


  • If you find a group of lobsters, catch the smallest first. Measure the lobster. If it meets the size requirements, you can proceed with catching the remaining lobsters knowing they should be large enough to meet the limits.
  • Deep, square shaped nets are ideal for catching spiny lobster while diving. Since you are usually sweeping the net close to the bottom when catching lobster, the square shape allows less opportunity for you to miss the lobster. A rounded net can let the lobster slip through on either side.


  • Release any female lobsters with eggs attached to the underside of their tails on the swimmerets. Egg-bearing lobsters are generally referred to as berried lobsters, because the clumps of small eggs resemble berries. Eggs are usually yellow, brown, orange or red. In many areas, it is illegal to catch berried lobsters, and there are also fines for removing the eggs.
  • Don't stick your hands into deep crevices or holes, especially if you notice a lobster has 1 antenna pointed towards you and another inside the hole. This can indicate it has noticed another predator in the hole you may get bit.
  • Be wary of caves while diving. Divers should get special training and certification before attempting cave diving, as it can be very hazardous.

Things You'll Need

  • Lobster fishing license
  • Fishing boat
  • Lobster trap with identifying tags
  • Bait
  • Buoy
  • Lobster gauge
  • Heavy-duty protective gloves
  • Catch bag
  • Snorkeling or scuba gear
  • Hoop net
  • Tickle stick
  • Net

Article Info

Categories: Fishing