The Differences Between Spiny Lobsters & Maine Lobsters

The Differences Between Spiny Lobsters & Maine Lobsters


Before you get too excited about being invited out to a lobster dinner, it’s important to understand the differences between spiny lobsters and Maine lobsters. Both are great to eat, but they have major distinctions that affect everything from where and how they’re caught to how they’re shipped and cooked. Learn more below.


A lobster’s habitat significantly influences its characteristics. Maine lobsters, also known as American lobsters, inhabit the cold waters of the North Atlantic, primarily along the northeastern coast of North America. They have distinctive large claws, which contain sweet, tender meat.

Spiny lobsters, also known as rock lobsters, are found in the warmer waters in Florida (which is why they’re sometimes called Florida lobsters), the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and off the coast of Southern California. Unlike their Maine counterparts, spiny lobsters don’t have large, meaty front claws: they carry most of their meat in their tails.

Fishing Methods

You’ve surely seen picturesque depictions of Maine lobster pounds, with lobster pots and colorful buoys stacked outside a weathered shack. Lobster-fishers catch Maine lobsters by dropping baited traps to the ocean floor. The attached buoys float on the surface to mark the traps’ locations. The lobsters enter these traps, lured by the bait, and are then unable to escape.

Spiny lobsters can be caught using similar trap methods or by scuba divers. But the waters in which they’re found during the day are deeper and often shark infested. However, spiny lobsters are quite active nocturnally, foraging for food in shallow waters. Therefore, fishing for them at night using handheld nets called bully nets is a more popular method than diving.

Fresh Versus Frozen

Maine lobsters are most often sold live, often being flown in from across the country or across the ocean. This means they’re cooked fresh, which results in the best flavor and texture. But due to spiny lobsters’ warm-water habitat, they’re often sold as frozen tails. This allows for a longer shelf life and easier transportation.

Culinary Differences

When it’s time to splurge on a luxury lobster dinner, the Maine lobster is the shellfish of choice. Maine lobster meat is sweet, succulent, and tender when properly cooked. Its meaty tails, large claws, and knuckle meat are delicacies that everyone can enjoy—from discerning diners at fine restaurants to families on a ramshackle pier during a Maine vacation. A Maine lobster is always the star of the show on any dinner plate.

Spiny lobster meat, on the other hand, is firmer and slightly chewy, with a brinier flavor. It’s often mixed with other ingredients, such as in lobster salads, lobster mac and cheese, pastas, and soups.

Whether you’re dining on a Maine lobster pulled fresh from the Atlantic or enjoying the firm tail meat of a spiny lobster, understanding these differences can enhance your appreciation of lobster’s culinary roles and help you make the choice that will satisfy you most when you’re dining out.

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