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Breaking the Language Barrier

Cracking crabs speaks volumes

The water was 90 degrees, murky with algae and the skies overcast. We all peered intently at the barely visible trotline gliding through the water next to our skiff. One chicken neck bait after another appeared, slid over the roller and went back down. But there was no mistaking the first blue crab to appear. That jimmie was seven inches across.
    My youngest son, Rob, slipped the net into the water, captured the gorgeous devil then nonchalantly deposited it in our basket. We gave a short cheer, then returned to the line, hoping for another of the same. Soon a second jimmie, an equal to the first, came aboard. Then another. It looked like a banner day.

•   •   •

    I had no problem waking up at 4:30 this Friday morning. When my alarm went off, I had already been up for two hours. I was to meet with my oldest son’s fiancée’s father, and I was a bit nervous.
    He had arrived two days prior from the family home in Quito, Ecuador. He was a charming, good-natured fellow and a dedicated lover of the blue crab. Still, he spoke not a word of English. Some 50 years ago, I was clumsily conversant in Spanish.
    As we launched from Sandy Point at dawn, I explained as best I could details of the boat, life preserver location and so on. Then we sped off to a distant creek that had had recent (and very secret) reports of big crabs in good numbers, bounty very rare this season.
    The first lay, as I described, brought success. But our luck turned cold right after those three crabs were in the boat. An unpredicted freshening breeze off our starboard made keeping on line a chore. So we moved the trotline parallel to the wind direction.
    We scored a few more lovely males before our fortunes went south again. Higher up the creek, we reset the line only to have the same experience. We reset again. The tidal phase was stalled at full and was refusing to fall.
    With barely a dozen crabs in our basket we vacated the area, pulled the boat and trailered it north. Crabs move with the tidal current, and when the tide stalls, the crabs stall with it. We needed a moving tide and reasoned that it would start falling higher in the Bay sooner than lower, so that’s where we went.
    That didn’t work either. For some inexplicable reason, the tidal currents up in the Magothy were as still as the more southern waters we had vacated. After identical short successes we moved our line and then moved it again, while I tried to explain to Carlos the reason for our disappointing luck.
    He had never been crabbing before and was uncertain of what I was trying to convey. In reality, he was ecstatic about the two dozen crabs we had in our basket. These would have been a feast in any one of the restaurants where he had previously eaten crabs.
    At 11 we pulled the line for the last time and headed home. At noon, with the boat washed down, the crab cooker steaming and ice-cold adult beverages in our hands, my Spanish improved. Not too long after, Carlos and I were eating the fat and sweet crabs, corn on the cob and fresh-sliced tomatoes, recounting our life stories, describing the joys and difficulties of raising children.
    At least I think that’s what we were saying.

•   •   •

Tournament Alert

    Fish three categories — light tackle, fly and kayak — for cash prizes in the first Coastal Conservation Association Redfish and Sea Trout Catch and Release Tournament Saturday, September 7, and Sunday, September 8, at Crisfield.
    There’s good reason beyond fun and money to join this tourney. Enthusiastic recreational anglers can help DNR in its plan to manage spotted sea trout as a trophy fishery by showing a positive economic impact in the areas fish are congregating.
    More information at www.ccamd.org or e-mail tony@ccamd.org.