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Feb 7, 2011 01:29 PM

Lobster season in Mid-Atlantic?


I grew up in Norway where lobster season is from October through New Years. Although my dad laments every year I won't be home during this season as he won't be able to serve me local lobster dinner (I will gladly take any and all local sea food he deems to serve me actually), I would like to recreate our annual family and friends of the family with kids lobster dinner. We all got one lobster each (and all the shrimp and Dungenes crab we could eat) because the stuff was expensive and our dad's took vacation time to go lobster fishing and supplement family income. It was just great being 20 something adult and kids around a table with nutcrackers and seafood forks.

As far as I have been able to ascertain, there is no season for lobster fishing in the Mid Atlantic. Am I right about this? If this is the case, what is the time of year that the lobster is the best? What time is the most reasonable price? Coming from an area where lobster was a prized catch, I still have a bit of issues buying them during breeding season, since that is a recipe for shortage in the future. (These days it sounds like my dad has to go through drug dealing secrecy to get lobsters when I am home in during the season, even though it is a totally legal trade back home still).

Also, proving that one can teach old dogs new tricks: Here is the link to my dad's recipe for cooking lobster. Which is a strict deviation from the local lobster cooking traditions he grew up with. It is yummy:

Anyways, local advice appreciated as it is silly to recreate old traditions without adapting to new geographic conditions.



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  1. There is no "lobster fishing season" in the Mid-Atlantic, because there are no lobsters in the Mid-Atlantic. Well, there may be a few stray lobsters about, but not enough to be fished for & sold commercially - lol!! Commercial lobster fishing pretty much starts around Long Island, NY (which stays pretty much local), & moves northward from there into the colder commercially-fished lobster waters.

    All of the lobsters sold in the Mid-Atlantic, at least the ones I've been purchasing for the past 17 years here in VA, come from either Canada or Maine, & are shipped in from those areas year-round. They tend to be more plentiful during the spring & summer months, & excellent sales can be plentiful then. But I buy them year-round & the quality has always been excellent. In fact, I'll be buying a couple for our traditional Valentine's Day dinner coming up, & this past spring, I bought 2 HUGE ones (a 4-pounder & a 3-1/2 pounder) for my husband's birthday dinner (from Wegman's supermarket). They were full, sweet, succulent, & worth every penny!!

    12 Replies
    1. re: Breezychow

      You don't say where you live, but if you're anywhere near a Shop Rite supermarket, check their supply and prices. I think their regular price for lobster is somewhere around $6.99/lb. We got some 2+ pound lobsters about a month ago for $4.99/lb. They were delicious. The only problem we had was that the shells were so hard, we needed a mallet to crack them.

      1. re: CindyJ

        Lobsters should have very hard shells, & one normally needs really sturdy lobster crackers &/or mallets to get to the good stuff. What do you normally use?

        1. re: Breezychow

          I have had some lobsters that had rather soft shells. I have heard that this is just after they have shed their previous shells (similar to soft shell crabs). While the shells are not edible like the crabs, they are rather flexible and can be broken with your bare hands.

          1. re: Breezychow

            As they grow, lobsters outgrow their shells and molt, and the new shells are soft. Younger lobsters molt much more often than older ones do. I've had lobsters with shells so soft even a nutcracker isn't necessary. I might be wrong, but I think soft shell lobsters are most prevalent during the summer.

            1. re: CindyJ

              Yes, lobsters do molt their shells as they grow, just like crabs, & soft-shell lobsters do pop up now & again in markets. However, most responsible commercial lobstermen throw soft-shells back, as the soft shells make the lobsters' survival to market dicier. In addition, they're usually not as full or flavorful as their hard-shell kindred, since they stop eating for a period of time before the molt.

              1. re: Breezychow

                There have been times when the markets here in southeastern PA have only soft-shelled lobsters; in fact, I'd go so far as to say that during July and August, it might be downright difficult to find hard shells in the supermarkets here. I've also been to lobster pounds in Maine where you have your choice of hard or soft shells (soft shells being less expensive). So based on your explanation, it sounds to me like there are a lot of irresponsible lobstermen out there.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Honest to God - when I lived in Long Island, NY, & when we used to visit Maine in the summer, that's what we were told by the boats. They said that only the desperate commercial guys kept & shipped the soft-shells because they were much more likely to arrive dead at their shipping destination & people (both vendors & consumers) didn't want them regardless. You could, however, if you wanted, buy them locally from some places. But again, they were considered inferior.

                  But thanks for the update. I still prefer hard-shells though. The few soft-shells I've gotten accidentally over the years have been really disappointing in flavor, texture, & fullness, so now I make sure to check them before I leave the market..

                  1. re: Breezychow

                    That's kind of funny. I did some research about soft shell lobsters and they seem to be prized by the locals due to the meat being sweeter and more tender. However, they do not travel well.


                    This is only one site that mentions this, but I have read it elsewhere.

          2. re: CindyJ

            Wow Cindy...I'm off to Delaware and Shoprite! Giants has them at $10.99/lb on special and Hills is somewhere around $14.98/lb! Wonder why the big discrepancy?

            1. re: FriedClamFanatic

              There's also a ShopRite in WC, on West Chester Pike, right off 202. Shop Rite is always the first place I check when I've got a hankering for lobster. And as far as I know, lobster is lobster. Oh, I'm sure there are folks from Maine who will tell us there's a huge difference between lobster right off the boat and lobster just out of the supermarket tank, but my untrained palate can't tell the difference. I think what makes more of a difference is WHERE you're eating them. They always seem to taste so much better when you're having them on the beach in the summer than they do at my dining room table in the middle of winter.

              1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                The quality of budget-priced lobster -- like those sold in supermarkets -- hardly rivals what can be purchased at Hill's. I'm no great fan of Hill's but the quality of their lobster is superior. A small, ~1.25 lb. lobster is insufficiently matured in my humble opinion based on what I've read. The lobsters are harvested too young! Sadly, this delicacy just isn't what it used to be in terms of taste unless you're willing to refinance the house.

                1. re: Enjoy Good Food

                  I agree that the handling of lobsters and the amount of time out of the ocean will affect quality. I have, however, never noticed, or read anything suggesting, a diminished flavor quality in lobsters under two pounds. Considering that it takes five to seven years for a lobster's carapace to reach the minimum three inches, I find it quite surprising to see it suggested that they are harvested too young. I would certainly be interested to learn more about the concept.

          3. The North American lobster, Homarus americanus, is fished in the Mid-Atlantic as far south as North Carolina. There is a rather significant lobster fleet in New Jersey. I know commercial boats that fish out of Point Pleasant, Barnegat Light, and Cape May several months of the year. It is during the late summer that the fishery is most productive. The prices of local lobsters tend to be at their lowest from Mid-September through the end of October.

            Soft-shelled lobsters really taste no different than hard-shelled bugs. They, however, cannot be cooked in the exact same way so inexperienced preparers often wind up disappointed with their results. The most important rule is to never submerge a softy in boiling water – steaming is the proper alternative. Cooking times generally should be reduced.

            I agree that softies are not as “full” as hard shells. They have not yet grown to fill their new space. In the early fall, it is not uncommon for us to get 1 ¼ pounders for about three bucks a piece. Two or three each makes a rather amazing feast for under twenty dollars. (I usually wind up spending more on the beer.)

            I have never heard of much difficulty keeping soft-shells alive for the trip back to dock. It’s not a great deal of time from trap to tank. I do know that given the quantity limits per vessel per trip it’s more financially rewarding to bring in 100 hard shells than 70 hard and 30 soft. Hard shells weight more and command a higher price per pound – do the math.

            lenejohansen – I found your dad’s technique quite interesting. I think I'd like to give it a shot this summer. I would suggest recreating your feast after Labor Day, perhaps even waiting until early October. That coincides with your traditional season anyway. You might want to start checking the New Jersey board toward the end of August. I generally post a note when local lobster prices start to bottom.

            2 Replies
            1. re: MGZ

              Thanks! MGZ, I will watch for that!

              1. re: lenejohansen

                MGZ is correct - lobster fishing in NJ is a multi-million dollar gross altho still dwarfed by Maine. Sadly, almost any cold water lobster fished on the East coast is labelled "Maine lobster". Illegal i suppose but everbody seems to do it. But it all tastes good if cooked correctly. When the bug sheds its shell, the meat, no longer confined by the now too small shell expands to take up more space. Same amount of meat, same weight as before (less the shell of course) just not as dense. An hour after shedding you would not believe a lobster that big would have fit in that small a shell. Same with soft crabs.