on-line contest

What's New

Most Popular


Enlarge Map



BEST LOBSTER IN GRANDE ENTREE
ILES DE LA MADELEINE QUEBEC

Story and photos by

It's lobster season in Les Iles de la Madeleine (also known as the Magdalen Islands). Live lobsters fill crates on the fishing wharf in Grande Entree, the easternmost island in this Gulf of St. Lawrence archipelago.

Jean-Rock Déraspe, weighmaster, holds 5 lb. lobster.
Jean-Rock Déraspe, weighmaster, holds 5 lb. lobster.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

When is lobster season in the Magdalen Islands? You'll find fresh lobster here between early May and early July. Lobster fishermen leave about 3:30 am and return in the afternoon or evening—as late as 11 pm if the fishing is good.

Grande Entree Lobster Festival, held annually in July, celebrates the end of the lobster fishing season with lobster-eating, a boat rally, music and dancing. The dates for the 2018 Festival du Homard are July 6-9.

After the lobster season ends, fishermen catch tasty rock crabs. Before it begins, in April and May, fishermen catch snow crabs in round domed iron traps.

Best lobster

We met weighmaster, Jean-Rock Deraspe, near a sign advertising lobster for sale. He grasped one of the wriggling crustaceans and showed us the lobster's claws, restrained with blue rubber bands.

Jean-Rock Déraspe, weighmaster, shows lobster to Hugh Petitpas and CTMA Vacancier passengers.
Jean-Rock Déraspe, weighmaster, shows lobster to Hugh Petitpas and CTMA Vacancier passengers.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

"One claw is always bigger than the other. They grab prey with one claw and tear it apart with the other."

According to Deraspe, you'll find the best lobster in Iles de la Madeleine. "The lobsters here are clean because they live on rocks, not in mud or weed beds."

St. Lawrence cruise

You can taste the difference, as we discovered when we enjoyed fresh lobster, steamed and served with melted butter, on the CTMA Vacancier St Lawrence cruise that brought us from Montreal to Les Iles de la Madeleine.

The biggest lobster caught in Grande Entree was 28 lb (12.7 kg), according to Jean-Rock Deraspe. "The best eating lobsters are 1.5 to three pounds (0.6 to 1.2 kg) in size." How long do you cook lobsters? "Ten minutes a pound," he said.

Lobsters in crate
Lobsters in crate
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

He showed us how to tell the difference between male and female lobsters. "If you turn them upside-down, you'll see that female lobsters have soft swimmerets, while the males' undersides are harder and thicker."

Regulations require fishermen to return female lobsters bearing roe (eggs) to the sea, as well as lobsters smaller than legal size.

Lobster fishing

Grande Entree has 123 fishing boats in its harbor. Lobster fishermen bring in more than half of the Magdalen Island's annual catch here, earning the island the title of "Lobster Capital of Quebec."

The names of the colorful fishing boats caught our attention as we walked along the wharf. "All Iles de la Madeleine boats are labeled with Cap-aux-Meules as home port, even if they dock in other islands," explained Hugh Petitpas, our tour guide for the CTMA Vacancier Flavours package.

Boats in Grande Entree fishing harbor
Boats in Grande Entree fishing harbor
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

"If you see Lady before a woman's name, the boat is named after the fisherman's wife. If you see just female names, it's named after his daughters."

What to do in Grande Entree

The road to the wharf is lined with brightly colored craft shops and boutiques. An art gallery, operated by Marie Marto, sells paintings of island scenes, covered with epoxy instead of glass. She creates picture frames from broken lobster trap wood.

Examining a model of a harp seal pup in the Seal Interpretation Center
Examining a model of a harp seal pup in the Seal Interpretation Center
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

On Grande Entree, the Seal Interpretation Center (Centre D'Interpretation du Phoque) describes the biology, habitat and history of the four species of seals found around the Magdalen Islands (harp, hooded, harbor and grey seals). Madelinots (inhabitants of Les Iles de la Madeleine) call them loups-marins, which means sea wolves.

At Auberge La Salicorne (address: 377 Route 199), you can book kayak trips in Oyster Bay (Bassin aux Huitres), surf kayaking, cave exploration, bird-watching and guided hikes on Boudreau Island and Pointe-aux-Loups. The smallest island in the Magdalen Islands, Pointe-aux-Loups has 52 houses and a population of 121 people.

We followed Route 199 though Old Harry, the entrance to Plage de la Grande Echouerie. The long beach borders East Point National Wildlife Reserve, which connects Grande Entree to Grosse Ile.

Route 199 follows Dune-du-Nord west through Pointe-aux-Loups and Havre-aux-Maisons islands to Cap-aux-Meules, where the CTMA Vacancier ferry docks.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

CTMA Vacancier: www.cruisesctma.ca

Iles de la Madeleine Tourist Office: www.tourismeilesdelamadeleine.com

Le Quebec Maritime Tourist Office: www.quebecmaritime.ca

Tourism Quebec: www.bonjourquebec.com

More things to see & do in the Magdalen Islands/Iles de la Madeleine:

Domaine du Vieux Couvent Restaurant - Havre-aux-Maisons

Pied-de-Vent Cheese Factory - Havre-aux-Maisons Iles de la Madeleine

La Table des Roy - Cap-aux-Meules Magdalen Islands