The SOFT shell is “post” moult, ( ie) when the rock lobster sheds the old shell and the immediate stage after that the shell is soft/rubber like. Over a period of time the shell hardens up. The definition of soft shell stage from the Amateur Fishing regulations is the “state of a rock lobster following moulting where the exoskeleton has not reached full hardness.
Pre Moult the shell is still the “original” and will not be considered soft although there can be a slight softening of the original shell.
Most Rock Lobsters don’t “pot” during this time but obviously are available to divers.
Immediately before “pre moult” and at “post moult” the rock lobster flesh is a pink colour and tends to be a bit “mushy after cooking.
As the shell starts to harden up there is a transition stage which may require some reasonable interpretation of when the rock lobster has reached “full hardness”
A good rule is that if the Rock Lobster ( Cray) feels in anyway soft and it is NOT pre moult then it should NOT be taken.