A glut has driven down lobster prices in Maine — bringing cheer to lobster-loving consumers at the start of the state's tourist season but gloom among lobstermen.

Retailers in the Portland area have been selling small soft-shell lobsters for an unusually low $3.79 to $4.99 a pound.

Soft-shell lobsters began showing up in abundance in fishermen's traps weeks earlier than normal this spring, resulting in an oversupply.

That's good news for consumers: Lobsters have been selling for less than the per-pound price of bologna at many supermarket deli counters.

But lobstermen are smarting with the low prices.

Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen's Association, hopes a lot of people cook lobsters at their Fourth of July barbecues. She says that might help clear the glut and balance the market.