Chesapeake Outdoors By C.D. Dollar
Vol. 9, No. 36
September 6 - 12, 2001
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Is 15 Percent Enough?

Like many families, mine also engages in the Great Crab Debate, particularly while we are eating crabs, which, admittedly, is ironic. In my family, the principals in this exercise are my mother’s husband Dave and me. We agree that something has to be done to increase crab stocks, but we differ over exactly what. My guess is this was a common topic over the holiday weekend as crabs went for $150 per bushel and availability was tight.

Nonetheless, my girlfriend, Mimsy, and my brother and sister, Jason and Allison, and I set out well before sunrise to gather some crabs for our late afternoon feast. We piled in my jonboat and shot across the Magothy toward the edge of a grass bed to lay my trotline. The moon, robust and intense, lit up a trail of ambient light that guided us. When it was light enough to see, I counted seven other boats recreationally crabbing in a small area.

My siblings live in California now, so they don’t get Maryland crabs. They know all too well that crab populations are in trouble, but they agree that it’s not yet time to give up eating or catching crabs. So we ran the trotline for a couple hours. It was painfully slow, but we had fun, and Allison had a hot dip net. Overall, we netted and kept less than two dozen crabs, which was not enough for a full meal for all, but it did provide a decent supplement to the menu.

In the evening, as the tuna grilled, we dug into the crabs, a combination of our pull and another two dozen local crustaceans bought from the seafood market. A taste comparison revealed our harvested ones tasted better, mainly because the market cut their crab seasoning with massive amounts of rock salt.

As I dipped the succulent meat into vinegar, my step-father launched the first volley, a reference about banning the taking of females. His is a popular theory, and not without merit. I countered, however, that the situation is more complicated than simply not catching sooks. If such restrictions were enacted, pressure on males would intensify significantly. There is much to learn about the reproductive potential of male crabs, but we all know it takes two to tango.

Our debate got no further because my mother declared, as only mothers and wives can, that we would enjoy our crabs and refrain from verbal sparring. We laughed, but decision makers and resource managers might have to reassess if the 15 percent reduction strategies implemented last spring and in July can keep pace with the fast-growing population in Chesapeake Country.

I’m betting that the plan won’t be enough because, as more people settle here, not only will they want to take part in the Bay’s bounty, but the growth that brings them will add to water pollution and harm underwater grasses, a key habitat for crabs.

One thing is certain: Time is of the essence. Continuing changes and efforts to manage crabs effectively shouldn’t be looked at as needless.

Fish are Biting

I was told that Tom Simpson caught an 18-inch tarpon at Kent Narrows a couple weeks ago. Go figure.

Good bottom fishing for fat spot on shell bottom from Swan Point to Cooks Point to Point No Point. Middle-Bay chummers are catching rockfish limits and breaking bluefish with some Spanish mackerel found off Cedar Rips and Breezy Point as well as off Honga River. Ron from Anglers said that chumming success has picked up at the Hill and Love Point with nice perch around the Bay Bridge Pilings.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly