As part of our project documenting lobster culture on Prince Edward Island, we were keen to learn how a lobster trap works. Unassuming though the traps may look, with their weathered wood and knitting, their operation is actually a little hard to wrap your head around. And they’re an important part of the business and its history: the sizes and shapes have evolved over time. And even today, some fishers build them almost entirely by hand.
But as our trip wound down, we still hadn’t found anyone to explain to us the intricacies of a trap. Enter our Uncle Richard. We were having lunch with him one afternoon, and as he was expertly disassembling a cooked lobster, he shared stories of the time he spent fishing with his father back in the 1960s. Here was our chance! We asked him if he would demonstrate how a trap works, and he agreed. We were invited to join him in a few days’ time, for another lunch and a lesson.
When we arrived, Richard was ready not just to tell us how a trap works, but also how it’s built. He had pulled out his father’s old trap-making tools and showed us what each one was for. He shared stories of the years he spent fishing, and took us out to his parents’ old house to point out markings written on the wall recording the number of pounds of lobster they took in each season. And then, of course, he explained how a trap works, using a plush lobster to demonstrate, and kindly obliged our request for a second take so that Rob could catch it all on video.
This is one of the things we love about PEI: Its people have a deep connection to their province’s history, and are always willing to share their stories. We hope you enjoy them!
Slideshow: How a Trap is Built
Video: How a Trap Works