Lobster Fishing License: Cost, Requirements, and Everything Else You Need to Know

The Ultimate Guide to Lobster Fishing Licenses in 2024: Cost, Requirements, and Everything You Need to Know

Are you dreaming of catching your own lobsters off the coast of Maine or California? Before you can set your traps or dive for these delectable crustaceans, you’ll need to obtain a lobster fishing license. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about lobster fishing licenses in the United States, including costs, requirements, and state-specific regulations for the 2024 season.

Why You Need a Lobster Fishing License

Lobster fishing licenses are required by law for anyone who wants to catch lobsters for personal consumption or commercial purposes. These licenses help regulate the lobster fishing industry, protect the sustainability of lobster populations, and ensure that everyone has a fair chance to enjoy this valuable resource.

Without a valid lobster fishing license, you could face hefty fines and even legal consequences. In Maine, for example, fishing for lobsters without a license can result in fines of up to $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for subsequent offenses.

Types of Lobster Fishing Licenses

Most states offer different types of lobster fishing licenses depending on your residency status, age, and intended use of the lobsters. Here are the most common types of licenses:

  • Recreational License: Allows you to catch lobsters for personal consumption using a limited number of traps or by diving. Fees and trap limits vary by state.
  • Commercial License: Required if you plan to sell your lobster catch. Commercial licenses often have higher fees and more stringent requirements than recreational licenses.
  • Student License: Some states, like Maine, offer special licenses for students who want to start lobstering. These licenses have age and enrollment requirements.
  • Non-Resident License: If you’re not a resident of the state where you plan to fish for lobsters, you’ll need to obtain a non-resident license, which usually costs more than a resident license.

Lobster Fishing License Requirements

The requirements for obtaining a lobster fishing license vary by state, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Age: In most states, you must be at least 16 years old to obtain a lobster fishing license. Some states, like Maine, have special licenses for students under 23.
  • Residency: You’ll need to prove that you’re a resident of the state where you’re applying for a license, usually by providing a driver’s license or other official document.
  • Training: Some states require you to complete a lobster fishing education course or apprenticeship program before you can obtain a license.
  • Fees: License fees vary widely by state and license type, ranging from around $60 for a personal use license in Connecticut to over $1,000 for a non-resident commercial license in Maine.

State-Specific Lobster Fishing Regulations

Each state has its own unique regulations for lobster fishing, including season dates, size limits, and gear requirements. Here’s a breakdown of some key regulations in popular lobster fishing states:


  • Season: Varies by zone, but generally runs from late summer to early spring
  • Size Limit: Minimum carapace length of 3 1/4 inches
  • Gear: Traps must be marked with buoys and have escape vents and biodegradable escape panels


  • Season: Year-round, with some area closures during whale migration
  • Size Limit: Minimum carapace length of 3 3/8 inches
  • Gear: Traps must be marked with buoys and have escape vents and ghost panels


  • Season: Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October through the first Wednesday after March 15
  • Size Limit: Minimum carapace length of 3 1/4 inches
  • Gear: Hoop nets and hand take only for recreational fishing; traps allowed for commercial fishing

How to Apply for a Lobster Fishing License

The process for applying for a lobster fishing license varies by state, but most states allow you to apply online, by mail, or in person at a licensing office. Here are the general steps:

  1. Visit your state’s marine fisheries website or licensing portal.
  2. Choose the type of license you need (recreational, commercial, etc.).
  3. Provide proof of residency, age, and any required training or apprenticeship.
  4. Pay the license fee using a credit card or other accepted payment method.
  5. Wait for your license to arrive by mail or print out a temporary license if allowed.

Some states, like Maine, have a limited entry system for commercial lobster licenses, which means you may need to go on a waiting list or purchase a license from another fisherman.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a lobster fishing license cost?

License fees vary by state and license type, but here are some examples for the 2024 season:

  • Maine resident commercial license: $250
  • Maine non-resident commercial license: $1,154
  • California recreational license: Around $50, plus a $10 spiny lobster report card
  • Connecticut personal use license: $60

How long is my lobster fishing license valid?

Most recreational lobster fishing licenses are valid for one year from the date of purchase, while commercial licenses may be valid for longer periods. Check with your state’s licensing agency for specific details.

Do I need a separate license to catch lobsters recreationally and commercially?

Yes, in most states you’ll need separate licenses for recreational and commercial lobster fishing. Commercial licenses generally have higher fees and more stringent requirements.

Can I use my lobster fishing license in multiple states?

No, lobster fishing licenses are issued by individual states and are only valid within that state’s waters. If you plan to fish for lobsters in multiple states, you’ll need to obtain a license from each state.

What happens if I fish for lobsters without a license?

Fishing for lobsters without a valid license is illegal and can result in fines, gear seizure, and even jail time. In Maine, fines can range from $500 to $1,000, while in California, fishing without a lobster report card can result in a $485 fine.

Final Thoughts

Obtaining a lobster fishing license is an essential step for anyone who wants to enjoy this exciting and rewarding hobby. By following the requirements and regulations for your state, you can help ensure the sustainability of lobster populations and avoid costly fines and legal consequences.

Remember to always check with your state’s marine fisheries agency for the most up-to-date information on lobster fishing licenses and regulations, as these can change from year to year.

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