Diversions and Excursions

Vol. 8, No. 22
June 1-7, 2000
Current Issue
Welcome Crabs
Dock of the Bay
Letters to the Editor
Bay Reflections
Burton on the Bay
Chesapeake Outdoors
Not Just for Kids
Bay Bite
Good Bay Times
What's Playing Where
Music Notes
Sky Watch
Bay Classifieds
Behind Bay Weekly
Advertising Info
Distribution spots
Contact us
Keep up the Tradition: Take a Kid Crabbing
By Allen Delaney

To get and keep a kid’s attention, you either need a miracle or medication. That’s why I found myself smirking at an article in my local newspaper. It was about fishing hotspots, and the final sentence suggested that the reader take a kid fishing for memories that would last a lifetime.

Whose lifetime, I wondered, well aware that a child’s attention span is shorter than a junkyard dog’s temper.

Compared to light-speed video entertainment, Internet multitasking and professional wrestling, fishing can be as exciting as watching shower mold grow.

The best time to take a kid fishing was yesterday, as in ‘You should’ve been here yesterday.’

That’s a phrase I hear often when I’m out drowning bait, and my retort is something no child should hear until they’re well into their 50s.

For these reasons, I suggest in lieu of fishing you take a kid crabbing.

Fishing requires expensive equipment, such as rods, reels, line, sinkers, hooks, bobbers and bait. But with crabbing, all you need for a day of fun is a pier, a ball of string, an old bushel basket, some chicken necks and a long-handled net. If tiny hands accidentally drop some equipment overboard, a threat of future wage garnishment is unnecessary.

This type of crabbing does not require a license and while the harvest may not be abundant, it’s at least fairly consistent.

The overall process is rather simple. A four- to six-ounce weight is attached to the end of a piece of string, and a piece of chicken neck, or wing, is tied just above the weight. Both are lowered into the water until the weight hits bottom.

Once the string is in the water, tie the other end to a piling, and continue baiting, lowering, and tying-off the remaining string until you have six to 10 lines in the water. Return to the lines periodically and give them a gentle tug. If it feels heavy, chances are there’s a crab on the other end enjoying a chicken dinner. With net in one hand, string in the other, slowly raise the string until the crab comes into view, then carefully place the net under the crab, scoop him out of the water and plop him into the basket.

This is not as easy as it sounds: The water refracting the angle of the pole, a blinding flash of shimmering sunlight and the tidal current can all keep the crab from falling into the net. These are the excuses I’ve been using for years, so it’s best to let the kid do the scooping. They’re never too young to start their own list of excuses.

The best thing about crabbing with a kid is that if you catch one crab, it will keep the child occupied for about six minutes, in which time you will be asked exactly 154 questions about the crab, the crab’s features and the crab’s thoughts. By the time the inquisition is over, another crab will be nibbling on a neck, ready to be scooped up.

To find a local pier that allows crabbing, call your county’s park and recreation department. Sometimes local marinas and waterfront restaurants allow crabbing off their piers if permission is asked. In this case, your chances of gaining access increase by 300 percent if the kid makes the request.

Throughout the summer, along the Bay and its tributaries, excited young voices can be heard yelling, ‘I got one! I got one!’

Then excited adult voices shout, ‘Don’t hold the net over my lap, put it over the basket … the basket!’

‘He’s climbing out!’ the child squeals, ‘WhaddaIdo?’

The adult squeals back, ‘Put him over the basket, not over my … aaaughhhhhhhhh!’

The child can be heard giggling as the adult does the traditional Chesapeake Crab Dance across the pier.

So get your crabbing gear, increase your insurance and take a kid crabbing this summer. It’s a Chesapeake tradition worth passing down.

If you’d rather fish, Maryland offers three, license-free days: Saturday June 3rd and 10th and July 4.
Allen Delaney is a native Marylander, born with a crab mallet in one hand and a paring knife in the other. This is his first story for Bay Weekly.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly