Lobster Grades: Soft Shell vs. Hard Shell

Around the beginning of summer, lobsters wriggle out of their old shell (think of pulling a too-tight wet suit over your head!) as a part of their growth process. These new shell lobsters spend the rest of the summer & fall growing into their new shell which grows progressively firmer until they are ready to molt again. On average a lobster grows about 14% in length & 50% in weight after each molt.


Helpful Hints

The meat of a soft shell lobster is more sweet and tender than hard shells, but soft shells contain about 25% less meat.


Soft Shells can be easily shucked with your hands. Great for outdoor lobster bakes!


During the summer & fall, soft shells are much more abundant & therefore less expensive than hard shells.


Hard Shell lobsters are more durable and better for traveling or shipping long distances.


Betcha Didn’t Know

  • You can estimate a lobster’s age by multiplying their weight by 4 & adding 3.
  • It takes about 7 years (20-30 molts) for a lobster to reach the one pound market size.
  • Like humans, lobsters are either left or right handed depending on which side their crusher claw is on.
  • A one pound female lobster can carry over 8,000 eggs at one time, however, odds are only one or two will survive to be of legal size.
  • Lobsters eat fish, mussels, crabs, clams, plankton & their favorite… other lobsters.
  • Lobsters taste with their feet, breathe & listen with their legs, and their brain is located in the throat. They have poor eyesight but an incredible sense of smell.
  • If two lobsters fight and later cross paths again, each will remember the other… maybe they should be more forgiving!


Lobster buoys float on the water surface and are attached to the lobster trap with rope that runs from the trap up to the buoy.


Originally, all lobster buoys were made of wood. They were made of black cedar, painted in a variety of colors. Some lobstermen took a lot of pride in producing fancy, carefully shaped and painted buoys. They were a work of art. Later glass bottles with rubber stoppers were used.


Today, lobster buoys are made of styrofoam. Each buoy has the lobsterman’s initials and his lobster number. They are still painted in colors unique to that lobsterman.


The black and yellow color pattern above is Bret’s father, Steve’s, who has maintained that signature pattern for over 50 years lobstering Maine’s waters.