Inshore vs. Offshore Lobster Fishing

Lobster fishing is associated with two types of fishing, inshore and offshore. According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), more than 98% of the total Gulf of Maine catch comes from the “near-shore” area. “Inshore” is defined as state waters from 0-3 miles, with offshore being waters between 3-200 miles. Common fishing practice is to head offshore during winter and spring, when the deeper waters are warmer than the inshore waters and more suitable for lobsters. Inshore fishing occurs in the summer months. This practice, however, seems to be changing with some lobstermen. “They’re finding the lobsters are holding on out there, so rather than shift inshore, they stay out there,” says Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. “Some guys say they might catch a little less during the summer, but it’s worth it to fish in a less-congested area.” Fishing offshore, however, comes with different rules and regulations. In order to fish beyond the three-mile state water boundary, Maine fishermen must have a federal permit. Of the total lobster fishing fleet in Maine, about 20% has a federal permit for offshore fishing. While this number is staying relatively stable, the prices of these permits has been on the rise. “For years, they sold for $10,000,” said McCarron. Today, she said, that figure has doubled for Maine fishermen. McCarron additionally notes, fishing in offshore waters is complicated by weather and sea conditions. The boats must be large enough and carry modern navigational electronics in order to travel safely.

Offshore boats are larger, usually about 48 to 60 feet to handle more gear and a larger crew. F/V Provision, courtesy Abe Philbrook.