The first reported collecting of lobsters were first done by hand off the shores of Harpswell around the 1800’s. Wooden lobster traps were invented shortly after in the 1830’s or so. They were baited with dead fish and wooden bouys marked their positions in the water. Eventually lobstermen began to paint the bouys so each would be able to identify their own traps.
Buying and selling of lobsters out of Harpswell began around 1840’s by a man named Captain Elisha Oakes of Vinalhaven, Maine. He would buy and sell to Boston, Mass. Soon the industry grew. Around the 1900’s many local lobstermen were selling their own catch to hotels and inns in the summer in Maine.
As lobstering grew, the state began to enforce rules and regulations. Today we fish zones and there are limits placed on the lobstermen as to where they can fish and how many traps are allowed per zone. This is to help prevent over fishing of the lobsters.
Lobsters are measured from their eye socket to the back of the tail and have to be from 3 and ¼ to 5 inches to keep. Female lobsters that have a V notch in their tail placed by other lobstermen or have eggs showing must be thrown back, because they are breeders.
For more information on Harpswell and Lobstering there are two great books to check out:
A History of Harpswell, Maine by: Richard R. Wescott
Images of America, Harpswell by: Joyce K Bibber