Maine Seafood Guide – Vessel & Gear Guide


An otter trawl is a cone-shaped net with lateral wings extending forward from the opening, kept open horizontally by two “otter boards.” Fish are directed to a finer-mesh cone of net called the “cod end.”

Bottom trawls catch fish that live close to the sea floor, such as groundfish, and mid-water trawls catch fish that spend time up in the water column (“pelagic” fish), such as herring. Pair trawls use two vessels to tow a net.

Purse seine
A long wall of netting hanging from a floating line, with a weighted line along the bottom. A purse seiner circles the line and draws in the bottom line through rings, “pursing” the bottom of the net closed and thus capturing schools of fish near the water surface.

Mesh of monofilament twine of varied lengths and mesh sizes, stretched with weights across bottom water or with floats across surface waters. Drift gillnets are not anchored to the bottom and are free-floating on both ends or free-flowing at one end and attached to the vessel at the other end.

Cast net
A round net tossed by hand into to catch schooling fish such as alewives.

Stop seine
A long net drawn across the mouth of a bay after schooling fish like herring have entered a cove, thus blocking their escape.


A line, held horizontally at the surface or at depth by regularly spaced floats. Attached to this main line at regular intervals are shorter lines with baited hooks. Longlines can be suspended near the water surface, for species such as swordfish, or on the bottom for fish such as cod. They may be shorter, such as a tub trawl (below) for halibut, or up to many miles long with thousands of hooks, such as swordfish longlines. Generally, lines are left to “soak” for a certain amount of time, until retrieved by the longlining vessel.

Tub trawl
A shorter longline with baited hooks that unravels from a crate or tub; usually used by smaller boats.

A length of line with one or more baited hooks deployed, held and retrieved by hand. Smelts are caught with handlines through the ice in winter.

Rod and reel
A line with one or more hooks deployed and retrieved with a rod and reel.


An enclosure of vertical sticks or poles driven into the bottom of shallow waters and interwoven with brush, branches, or netting. Weirs come in varying shapes and sizes, but all are designed to direct migrating or schooling fish into a maze-like trap, where they are collected by hand from dories.

Pound net
Similar to a weir, a stationary net enclosure in shallow water designed to intercept and trap migrating fish which are then accessed with small boats. Pound nets use systems of floats and anchors to keep the netting in place.

Fyke net
A funnel-shaped net anchored parallel to the shoreline of tidal rivers. The wide, open end of the net faces downstream to catch migratory, sea-run (“diadromous”) fishes such as juvenile eels (elvers), which are then directed to a closed end of the net.


A cage or basket made from various material (wood, wicker, metal rods, wire netting, plastic, etc., deployed near or on the sea floor or river bed and usually baited to attract mobile animals who enter an opening through which they cannot exit. Captured animals are typically harvested and sold live.

Probably the best known is the lobster pot (lobster trap), which is connected by a vertical line of rope to a buoy on the surface. Lobster pots may be individual or connected with rope in a series. Crab pots may be repurposed lobster pots, in the case of Jonah and peekytoe crab, or large wire and mesh traps for deep sea red crab. Fish pots of different designs can catch groundfish such as cod or even eels and shrimp.


A submersible, electrically-powered pump that jets water into the seabed to dislodge mahogany clams and surf clams, animals that burrow deeper into the bottom sediment and thus are harder to dislodge with rakes or drags.

Metal gear of different sizes and configurations that captures animals from the surface of the sea floor. Chains, teeth, or a cutting bar mechanically separates the animals (urchins, cucumbers, scallops, mussels, clams).

A hand-held tool for collecting soft-shell clams and worms from the mud. Rakes can also be used on hard clams, mussels, urchins, and seaweed.

Some deep-water animals such as sea urchins and scallops are collected by divers using SCUBA equipment. Divers collect animals by hand and place them into mesh bags. “Dive tenders” stay in the vessel on the surface to help ensure safe collection.

Information from the Maine Marine Extension Team, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and National Marine Fisheries Service.

This section of the Maine Seafood Guide is still under development.