V-Notching Regulations

Saltwater Marine Fishing Regulations Massachusetts Saltwater Fishing

What is a V-Notch?

A v-notch is a mark on the tail flipper of a female lobster that was put there by a commercial lobsterman as a means to identify and protect a known breeder in the population from harvest.

Commercial lobstermen make a v-notch in the tail flippers of egg-bearing female lobsters they encounter while fishing. The v-notch remains in the female’s flipper after she has hatched her eggs which protects her from harvest through additional molts. If you choose to voluntarily v-notch egg-bearing female lobsters, we strongly encourage you to purchase a v-notching tool; this tool is available at marine supply stores.

V-Notching History

The practice of v-notching, as a means of protecting local broodstock, originated in Maine and dates back to the early 1900s.

Which Flipper is Notched?

The tail flipper immediately to the right of the middle flipper, when the lobster is examined with the underside of the lobster down and its tail is toward the person making the determination.


It is illegal to possess any female lobster in which the v-notch flipper is mutilated in a manner which could hide, obscure, or obliterate such a mark.

Below: Newly v-notched lobster and additional pictures of the v-notched lobster before and after it underwent two successive molts. Note that changes occurred even before the lobster molted

SCUBA Regulations for Recreational Lobster and Edible Crabbing


To recreationally dive for lobsters in Massachusetts, all divers must hold a Recreational Lobster/Crabbing Permit endorsed for diving. A permit endorsed for diving only covers the individual and does not cover the immediate family. Each individual diver must hold their own permit endorsed for diving. This permit must be carried on the vessel at all times when fishing for lobsters. No permit is required for the taking of edible crabs by diving. The taking of edible crabs is subject to recreational crab regulations (Recreational Lobster & Crabbing Regulations).

Gear and Marking Requirements

Dive Flag – MA law requires each diver or group of divers, while swimming or below the surface, to display a dive flag. The dive flag must be at least 12″ x 15″ in area with a red background and white diagonal stripe. The flag must be displayed on the vessel or on a surface float and must extend at least 3 feet from the surface of the water. Divers are required to stay within 100 feet of the displayed flag while at or near the surface. Divers may display their permit numbers of their dive flag.

Dive Marker – If the permit number for all divers is not displayed on the dive flag, a dive marker must be used. The dive marker must be a 12″ x 12″ floating panel with a white background. The permit number for each diver must be displayed on each side of the marker in numerals measuring 3” in height by ½” in width.

Dive Tank – The permit number must be marked on your dive tank in numerals that measure 3″ in height by ½” in width.

Methods of Taking Lobsters

Divers may take lobsters by hand. They may also utilize a tickle stick, which is a straight or slightly bent stick used to agitate a lobster to come out of its hole. The use of spears, snares and dipnets is prohibited (Recreational Lobster & Crabbing Regulations).

Catch Limits

There is a limit of 15 lobsters per day per permit, and all lobsters must meet the legal requirements. Divers are required to measure all lobsters in possession prior to surfacing.

Taking of blue crabs and other edible crabs is prohibited from January 1 through April 30.

There is a limit of 25 blue crabs per day.

There is a combined limit of 50 edible crabs (e.g., blue and Jonah) per day.