How to Set Lobster Traps

Updated November 21, 2016

According to the Lobster Institute, the majority of North American lobstering is done between Long Island Sound and Newfoundland, Canada. The most efficient way to catch lobster is with a specially designed trap, usually constructed out of wood or wire mesh. Laws pertaining to lobstering vary between states and over Canadian waters, so check local laws prior to setting a trap to learn what lobsters are illegal, how many traps are allowed at one time and what permits are required.

Determine the location to set your trap: by land or by sea.

Bait your trap by securing the preferred bait inside a mesh bag and tying it to the bottom of the trap. The mesh bag prevents other curious animals from getting injured by the trap. Lobsters and crayfish are able to access the bait through the mesh.

Secure the baited trap to a length of rope. Lobsters are not deep sea creatures and tend to inhabit water less than 1,000 meters deep, with 90 meters being common.

Attach the other end of the roped and baited trap to a buoy. Lobstermen have specific colours that mark their traps to avoid confusion.

Consider setting multiple traps on one buoy. A string of traps can be left from one buoy so long as the lobsterman does not exceed the trap limit in doing so. Each trap counts for one, not each string. A string of this type is called a trawl.


Lobsters are primarily carnivorous and sometimes cannibalistic. Traps are often baited with salted dead fish like herring (avoid salmon), crabs, sea urchins or pre-made food designed specifically to attract lobsters. Lobster traps must be checked and hauled up one to five days after being set.


Avoid checking lobster traps during bad weather.

Things You'll Need

  • Bait
  • Mesh bag
  • Rope
  • Buoy
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