Not Just for Kids

Vol. 8, No. 22
June 1-7, 2000
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I Was a Kid Crabber

My dad loves to tell stories about dip-netting for crabs in the sea grasses in front of Fairhaven when he was a kid. He liked it so much that he became a crabber after he graduated from college. About four times each summer dad would take me out on the boat with him. When I was young, I'd bring a book and huddle in the bow, reading or talking to dad. But once I reached about 10, I was able to work.

I'd get ready the night before, picking out an old T-shirt and grungy pants, then a hat and sweatshirt. At about 4:30 the next morning, Dad would wake me up. I would pull on my clothes and nibble some breakfast. We'd climb into the big pickup truck that smelled like gasoline and bait-fish (but that was comforting to me because it reminded me of him), and as the engine rumbled in the cool, early morning air, I'd struggle to stay awake.

When we got to the marina, dad would get things ready, loading the bait and tinkering with the engine. I'd put on a pair of dad's big rubber gloves as the boat pulled out of the slip. Once we reached his traps, each marked with black and yellow buoys, the work would begin. Dad would pull them out of the water and dump the crabs into a tray. I'd start culling them: sorting the crabs into males, females and lights (crabs who had shed recently), putting them in separate bushel baskets for each kind. The basket of males always seemed to fill up first. If a crab was too small to keep by law, I would throw it overboard. I always liked to watch them as they swam away free.

I got pretty used to snatching crabs after the first hour or so. You just had to know where to grab them; either from the back, where they can't reach you with their claws, or by the side tips of their shells, also out of the way of their pinchers. I still got pinched sometimes. The hardest part was getting them to let go. The more you try to shake them off, the harder they cling on!

The process would go on, and as the sun rose, gulls and other seabirds would come to collect the bait-fish from traps whose contents had already been harvested. We' d eat lunch at about 8am, but it felt like noon to us because we'd been up since four.

It was hard work – but it was fun. Time passed quickly as my dad and I talked and listened to the radio together. At about noon, we'd start to head back. By that time, we were sweaty and smelly, yanking our grungy gloves off and taking last swigs out of our bottles of water. I remember not being able to wait to take a shower.

Before leaving, we'd unload the bushels of crabs, still alive and rustling in the baskets, into the refrigerator on the back of the truck. I'd climb into the truck, yawn, and be thankful I'd get to sleep the next morning but happy to know I'd be able to come back another day.

Meet the Famous Blue Crab

Blue crabs help make the Chesapeake Bay famous. They are fun to catch and delicious to eat. But what do they like to eat? Why are they so hard to catch sometimes?

Crabs love dead fish, clams, oysters and anything else they can get a jump on. They are keen hunters and since their fifth pairs of legs are shaped like paddles, they are great swimmers, too.

Let’s Go Crabbing!
There goes one. Oops … missed another one!

Crabbing is one of our favorite summer pastimes, but you’ve got to be quick to catch those speedy creatures. How do you fish for crabs? Read Diversions & Excursions: Crabbing with Kids.

Here are the legal sizes:
5" limit hardshell • 3 1/2" softshell • 3" peeler

Kids' Calendar

Birds of a Feather
Sat. June 3 (10-10:30am, 11-11:30am)-Feel a feather, see some pretty birds up close and sing like a chorus of happy birds. Ages 2-3. Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, Port Republic: rsvp: 410/535-5327.

A Mouse at Story Hour
Fri. June 2 (10am)- Create a mouse of your own and discover the secrets of colors while listening to Mouse Magic by Ellen Stoll Walsh. Preschoolers. Barnes & Noble, Harbour Center: 410/573-1115.

Myths & Tall Tales
Sat. June 3 (2-3pm)- That’s just an old wife’s tale, or is it? Is the winter colder when the wooly bear is all black? How did the Milk Snake get its name? Find out the answers. Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, Port Republic. rsvp: 410/535-5327.

Kids’ Day on the Farm
Sun. June 4 (11-5)-Get to know farm animals, enjoy pony rides, or try out a pedal-powered tractor pull. Hands-on activities and chances to explore Southern Maryland Heritage, plus dancing, music and a talent show with local school kids. 410/586-8501.

Stimulate Summer Minds
Tue. June 6 (7pm)-Talk about a great book, My Parents Think I’m Sleeping, by Jan Prelutskey. Ages 6-8. Borders Books, Bowie: 301/352-5560.

Artward Bound
Discover Baltimore’s Walters Art Gallery this summer. Artward Bound features Lively Landscapes and An Eye For Detail, special exhibitions for all ages. Artpacks available to help guide kids and parents then drop by the craft tables to make a landscape treasure of your own: 410/547-9000.

Make Music
Have fun at Arnold Summer Music Camp for band, strings and guitar, July 10-21. Activities include solo and ensemble studies, guest performers, maintenance and repair, a talent show and group concert. Hours are 9am–3pm, Mon-Fri.
rsvp: 410/353-8069

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Bay Weekly