Lobster pounds are fenced off areas of water where lobsters can be stored while awaiting transportation or a better market. In this 1926 view of a Hancock, Maine, lobster pound, the fence can be seen; men in the foreground are netting up lobsters which can be stored in compartments in the float they are standing on to make them easier to retrieve for shipping. Many lobster pounds are quite large and need boats so that the operator can get around. Here they have a few dories and also a winch set up to help haul in a net.
When lobsters are caught their claws need to be immobilized to keep them from pinching the fishermen or other lobsters. In the past hand-whittled lobster plugs like these from Machias were inserted into the claw to keep it from opening. Today, fishermen use rubber claw bands hooked around the claws with a banding tool.
The v-notch tool is used to cut a "V" in the tail of female lobsters found to be carrying eggs. This is the kind of tool used today. It is much faster than using a knife to cut the notch, although it does cost $16.00, something more than a knife. The notch usually lasts through several moltings or several seasons. It is illegal to catch and keep a lobster with a V-notch in it. This rule helps preserve the breeding stock of lobsters.
Today lobster pot buoys are made of a hard flotation foam and bought at marine supply stores. Fifty years ago, they were made of wood and had to be turned round on a lathe to give them their shape. Earlier buoys were carved by hand using a hatchet from squared off pieces of wood.
The wire lobster trap began replacing the wood lath pot by the late 1960s. It is much lighter and does not soak up water. Its maintenance is a matter of replacing the net funnels that direct the lobsters. It is also easier to fit with the escape hatch. Improved wire coating means that a trap can last for many seasons. The investment that a fisherman has in a trap ready to fish is about $75 (in 2009 dollars).
Early wood lath pots had rounded tops, formed by a bent stick at the ends. The half-round shape had the most volume for the least amount of weight of the pot. It also was more stable on the sea floor. It could be built relatively quickly by the fisherman. Later pots used steam-bent round frames. Bricks on the base ensured that it landed bottom up. These traps had a limited lifespan, soaking up water and being susceptible to worm and other marine life damage. After a season of use, the soaked traps were quite heavy.
Lobster fishing from a dory. Note that the header, or the net opening for lobsters to enter the trap, is at the end of the trap rather than on the sides. There is a mackerel seine boat in the background, steered with a steering oar, along with a nest of more seine boats. In the background a number of fishing schooners lie along a fish pier. This photograph was likely staged, and was taken in Gloucester Harbor, Massachusetts.