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Jan 3, 2005 11:11 AM

When is lobster season

  • b

I thought I had heard that it was actually in the winter but I can't remember for sure.

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  1. Lobster is a year-round catch. Lobsters molt when the waters warm between mid-spring and late summer, at which time the new shells are easier to open but the flesh hasn't filled. I would say that many find the best time of year for cold water shellfish to be midwinter into early spring.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Karl S.

      Since I have so many lobster experts on the line, tell me what you think: My sister in law always brings lobsters on Christmas Eve, as they are her favorite. She lived in Long Beach NY for many years and always got at Jordan Lobster Farm, which is actually where we used to get lobsters when I worked at Red Lobster many moons ago, so you know they have good stuff. Now she moved a few towns away, and got these really weird lobsters this year. They had the thickest shells I've ever seen, cooked up like mush, but weirdest of all was they had giant spines down their back and I actually cut myself and dripped blood when I tried to remove the rubber bands. I was just curious what the heck that was all about. They were almost impossible to open, but they weren't more than 1 1/2 Lb.

      1. re: coll

        The American (or "Maine") lobster, Homarus americanus, never has spines of any kind down its back. I'm wondering if your mother purchased spiny lobsters (genus Panulirus), but in that case I believe the spines are only on the carapace, and spiny lobsters are usually only marketed in the northeast as frozen tails (and from your description it sounds like these were alive). Did they have the two large claws that are characteristic of American lobster? Is it possible that they were true "scampi" from the Med? (I'm not sure that they get as large as a pound and a half).

        1. re: FlyFish

          They had big claws like Maine lobster, but like I said, the meat inside was really gushy, almost non-existant. I hang out in Montauk a lot so I've seen some lobsters in my time, they looked normal except their shells were just weird.

        2. re: coll

          I wonder if she got them from the same place as my Christmas Eve fiasco? (in Merrick)

          1. re: ValL

            Yes, she did get them in Merrick..I'll have to ask her where. And tell her to find a new place for next year!!

          2. re: coll

            Here's a quote from The Encyclopedia of Fish Cookery by A.J. McClane:

            "Lobsters are one of the least parasitized crustaceans known, in fact their immunity has been a subject of research for some years. On rare occasions however, large lobsters (as well as shrimps) are attacked by microsporidia which cause the flesh to turn mushy. This has been reported from time to time in popular literature but is not a normal condition among large crustaceans. These spores are harmless to man but the cooking can be a frustrating experience when guests are waiting at table. I wouldn't hesitate to cook the biggest lobster available¬ówhen available."

            If they had claws, they were North Atlantic (Maine, Hommard, Hummer). I don't know what the spiny growths were about - spiny lobsters (south Atlantic and Pacific) don't have claws. In any case, you probably experienced some of the above referenced bugs.

            I don't want to burst any bubbles, but I certainly wouldn't think of supplying Red Lobster as any qualification of anything but supplying a known low-cost megalo-chain (Darden). They've closed down most of the Red Lobsters around MA - of course they've just replaced them with one of their others (Smokey Bones, Olive Garden...). As far as I'm concerned, they might as well all be one restaurant - the same low cost, low quality, mass-production notebook procedures created to fit their market researched menu. The real lobster experience has got to be on the dock - Maine, the Cape - lots of places that buy right off the boat and have a really limited menu - if you want something besides lobster, you have to bring it yourself.

            But I'm not trying to say that this lobster pound you speak of was not reliable just because they happen to sell to Red Lobster. I get mine from James Hook in Boston precisely because they do service so many good local restaurants. I doubt that there's any way of knowing ahead whether a lobster has this bug or not. Perhaps you could talk to the people you got these lobsters from about the experience - ask them what kind of lobsters they were, have there been any other reports of the mushy meat?

            1. re: applehome

              That would make sense. Actually I worked at Red Lobster when they were run by General MIlls: never ate there myself before or after my employment. The food quality depended alot on who was in the kitchen that day.I did learn to hate lobsters though, they're such nasty creatures,and I was never sad when I had to stab one! Guess this one got his revenge!

        3. There really isn't a clearly defined season. Prices tend to go up in the winter because fewer boats are fishing (understandably). Soft-shelled lobsters appear in late summer, providing (IMHO) consumers the opportunity to purchase lobster-flavored water at lobster prices.

          1. Lobster is available year-round, but they molt usually one time per year, but sometimes twice per year when young. Right after molting (shedding their hard shell), their new bigger shell is soft and fits loosely. Traditionaly, these soft-shell lobsters are shunned as being less flavorful and watery. They are sold at cheaper prices. However, a lot of people will tell you that soft-shells are perfectly fine and some people even prefer them. Lobster's molt in the summer, starting usually in late July. If you're concerned about soft-shell, you should avoid them through the summer to allow the shells to harden and the lobster to start growing into the new shell. Typically, October/November are good months for getting hard-shell lobster. The second cycle varies, but you can get some soft-shells in February - typically these are chickens and selects (1 - 1 1/2 lbs).

            There are other factors in lobster flavor, including the water temperature. Some say the colder the better - hence the winter ones may be better. But I've read, and personally agree that this is the most important factor: storing a lobster in a tank for a long time deteriorates their flesh, regardless of what their condition was to begin with. In other words, freshness is absolutely the most important factor, not just that they are alive, but that they are fresh out of the ocean. I've noticed the greatest difference in lobster bought from a reliable lobster specialist with great turnover, vs. one from the supermarket that might have been in the tank for weeks.

            1. Lobster season depends on where you are, or where you are interested in.

              In Southern California, lobster season is now open.