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