Thursday, July 10, 2008

How Much Does a Lobster Fisherman Make?

Not too long ago I posted an article about an operator permit that someone in my family is selling. It's still for sale [edit: Permit has been sold!], but I've received quite a few inquiries about it. It seems that a lot of people wish to enter the lobster fishing business, but they aren't sure how or they doubt that they will be successful at it.

First of all, if you have absolutely no commercial fishing or boating experience, then it's a difficult thing to jump into. There's a lot more to it than just buying any old boat and some traps and dropping them into the ocean. It's also pretty expensive to get started if you don't already have a boat, traps, gear, etc. And let's not forget the price of fuel. Diesel fuel isn't immune to the gas price gouging going on, and it's a huge expense for commercial lobster fishermen.

Unless you plan on manually pulling up your lobster traps, you'll need a hydraulic lift fitted to your boat. Those lobster traps can get pretty heavy (which isn't necessarily a bad thing!). You'll also need special navigation equipment and sonar to let you know how deep the water is that you're dropping your traps. You don't want to drop a trap with a 50ft rope in 70ft waters, because you'll never see that trap again. Actually we don't measure them in feet...we measure them in fathoms...but I digress.

Have I changed your mind yet? Do you still want to be a commercial lobster fisherman?

The good news is that yes, there is a ton of money in the spiny lobster fishery. I can only assume the Maine lobster industry is also a great business to be a part of, but I'd rather be out here in California. The amount of money you make really depends on your means (boat, traps, gear, time, gas money) and the amount of work you're willing to put into it. There are indeed lobster fishermen out here in Southern California pulling six figures, but they work their asses off all season.

So, do you have what it takes? Or would you rather watch the
Lobster Wars DVD Set


jason said...

Very cool Blog. Where do you sell your lobster once you catch them? Is there tons of places in the bay that buy them? Where do you buy traps?

Jack said...

Thanks! There are lots of places to sell them. Most lobster fishermen have one or two fish markets that they regularly sell to. From there they get distributed elsewhere. Most of ours end up in Monterey, I believe. But we sell them locally. Also some independently owned restaurants will buy them, but they're more particular about sizes, since they want them consistent (since they sell them for one price, not by the lb).

We actually build our own traps, but you can buy them too. It just costs a bit more.

jason said...

very cool, I would love to try this oneday, it seems a little expensive to get into though.

JLR said...

Do commercial lobstermen in CA fight over the prime spots to set traps? How long do you normally let a trap soak before checking it? Thanks for the info.