Lobster is one of the most important fisheries in New Hampshire’s marine waters. The following is a summary of licensing requirements, and fishing and gear regulations for the harvest of lobster and crab.
A license is required to take lobsters and crabs. Federal license required to fish in waters seaward of state waters. The more restrictive measure applies when fishing more than one management area.
No lobster less than 3¼ inch carapace length, whether alive or dead, may be transported, bought, sold, given away, exposed for sale or possessed. No lobster greater than 5 inches carapace length may be possessed by any person holding a N.H. License to Take Lobsters (RSA 211:18).
How to measure a lobster
Measurements must be made from the rear of the eye socket, along a line parallel to the center line of the body shell, to the rear of the body shell. When lobster meat is removed from the shell, the tail meat must be whole, intact and not less than 4¼ inches, when laid straight and measured end to end (not including the small part that is on the body end of the tail meat). Possession of mutilated lobster, cooked or uncooked, will be prima facie evidence that they are not of legal length.
Lobster meat from outside the state must meet the minimum length requirements. Hermetically sealed cans of lobster, not requiring refrigeration and not weighing over 8 ounces net, are exempt from this provision.
No person can remove spawn from any female lobster or take, serve, have in his possession, sell or offer for sale any female lobster carrying spawn or any lobster spawn.
No person can take, buy, sell, or possess any female lobster bearing eggs. Female egg-bearing lobsters must be immediately returned alive to the waters from which taken. This does not apply to lobsters spawning in holding cars or pounds if, upon discovery, they are liberated alive in the coastal waters (call Fish and Game Law Enforcement at (603) 271-3361 when discovered).
Any female possessing a V-notched (notched right flipper next to the middle flipper when underside of female is down and its tail toward you) or mutilated right flipper must be immediately returned to the waters from which it was taken (zero tolerance). All commercial and limited commercial lobster licensees shall immediately V-notch and return to the water, all egg-bearing female lobsters captured in the process of taking lobster.
Lobster trap tags
Persons taking lobsters by trap are required to purchase trap tags up to the maximum allowed by their license (1,200 for commercial; 600 for limited commercial if license held prior to January 1, 2006; 100 for new limited commercial harvesters; 5 for recreational). Additional trap tags are allowed for routine trap losses. Lobster trap tags are valid for one year (June 1 – May 31 of the following calendar year). A valid lobster trap tag shall be securely attached to the frame of the lobster trap in a manner for which it was designed. For more detailed information, contact Fish and Game’s Region 3 office, (603) 868-1095.
Lobsters shall only be taken by traps in state waters.
Escape vents or gaps
Must be in the parlor section of the trap and may be:
- A rectangular or oblong escape vent at least 115⁄16 inches by 5¾ inches, located next to the bottom edge;
- Two circular vents at least 27⁄16 inches in diameter;
- A gap created by raising, modifying or separating the horizontal or vertical laths so that they create openings as described in 1) or 2) above;
- A gap caused by separating both ends of 2 laths 1¾ inches on the top of the parlor section next to the middle bow or supporting frame and directly over the parlor head; or
- Vents cut in the side or the end of a wire or plastic trap that comply with the dimensions in 1) and 2) above.
Biodegradable escape panels and runners
Each trap must have escape panels and at least two runners or sills extending the entire length of the trap. Nothing may be placed in the parlor section of the trap that will obstruct the opening after disintegration of the fiber. The traps must be constructed in the following manner:
- Rectangular wire or plastic mesh traps:
- Every trap must have at least 2 parallel runners or sills attached to the bottom of the trap, running along the entire length of the exterior.
- Every trap must have an unobstructed escape panel which must be:
- Located in the parlor section on the sides or end;
- Hinged at the top of positively buoyant panels or at the bottom of negatively buoyant panels;
- Tied with an untreated natural fiber such as cotton, sisal, hemp or jute not exceeding 3/16 inches in diameter before immersion in sea water, or a piece of nonstainless, uncoated ferrous metal wire not exceeding 3/32 inches in diameter; and
- Of sufficient size to create an opening of at least 3¾ inches x 3¾ inches when the panel is removed or opened.
- Non-rectangular wire or plastic mesh traps:
Must have at least two runners and an escape panel which will create an opening of 3¾ inches x 3¾ inches when open. These construction designs must be approved in writing by the Fish and Game Director.
- Wood lath traps—half round, round or rectangular:
Every trap must have at least two runners and an escape panel. An escape panel can be created by one untreated, softwood lath running the full length of the parlor section. The lath must have the same dimensions as the other laths on the trap. It must not be located where it will rest on the sea bottom. After disintegration, it must leave a space of at least 3¾ inches x 3¾ inches between the adjacent laths. One can also be created by an opening of at least 3 inches between adjacent laths, running the length of the parlor section, which is laced with an untreated natural fiber such as cotton, sisal, hemp, or jute not exceeding 3/16 inches in diameter before immersion in sea-water.
Note: The Fish and Game Director may exempt specific trap designs from the escape vent and escape panel requirements if it can be conclusively proven that the specific trap design will only take crabs and is incapable of catching lobster. Approval will be granted in writing only after inspection.
Each lobster or crab license holder has a color scheme or special markings indicated on their license. These must be used to mark all buoys. These colors must also be displayed on the boat, either by painting an area at least 1 square foot on the port and starboard side of the bow or by setting a painted buoy on the highest point of the boat (excluding the mast) visible for 360 degrees. The buoy or colors must be permanently attached at all times while the lobster or crab gear is being fished.