Chesapeake Outdoors by C. D. Dollar

 Vol. 10, No. 25

June 20-26, 2002

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Do Crabs Stand a Chance?

I walked into my local seafood market the other day, looking for something to grill shish kabob-style. When I saw the sign for local crabs, I commented how the crabs must be running hard on account of all the commercial trotliners and chicken neckers I’ve see bunched up in Prospect Bay and several smaller creeks cutting into Kent Island.

“Crabs don’t stand a chance,” quipped the merchant, without a hint of irony. “My man I buy from said on Saturday there was a dozen commercials and 50 neckers right off Hog Island alone! So close together you could hear ’em breathing.”

He didn’t know how right he was. Almost two years ago, the Bi-state Blue Crab Advisory Committee and its Technical Work Group reached ground-breaking consensus on a number of key issues related to crabs, including the overarching yet simple notion that changes in management Baywide are needed to ensure a vibrant blue crab population and a sustainable fishery far into the future.

The group also reported that overall abundance for all age groups of blue crabs is down, while fishing mortality has increased Baywide since the mid-1980s. A third point was that the spawning stock biomass is below the long-term average.

In the next couple days, perhaps as this column hits the streets, the annual Blue Crab Advisory Report issued by the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee will be made public. A key component of the update will estimate progress toward the fishery targets adopted 18 months ago and landings for 2001, the first year of the three-year phase-in of the 15 percent cutback in the fishery needed to achieve the targets set by the states.

The goal here, obviously, is to ensure that crabs do stand a chance.

Fish Are Biting
It seems that it didn’t really matter if you fished above the Bay Bridge or below Tangier Island this week. Wherever your preferred location, you stood a good chance of catching fish.

Led by Saxis Island favorite son Chuck Foster, Amelia Koch and Leslie Grove used fall jigging tactics, white feather jigs and braided line to get a limit of plump rockfish at the Bay Bridge. North of the bridges around Love Point and Swan Point, local guides Richie Gaines and Mark Galasso chummed up rockfish and croakers for their clients.

John Page Williams told me that he and friends used bloodworms to catch a brace of fat white perch on the Department of Natural Resources and Chesapeake Bay Foundation restoration oyster reefs inside the Severn River on the Tolley Point side. This is evidence of the value of oyster reefs as habitat.

Annapolitan Bill Street took his dad fishing for Father’s Day and, thanks to the keen local knowledge of Dean Bieri, landed several houndfish, including one better than four feet. They fished the grass flats around the mouth of the York River. Guides in Tangier Sound indicate that spadefish have shown up at a few spots with lots of submerged structure: read Target Ships. Thanks for the tip, Subliminal Man!

I heard through the grapevine that Paul Willey and his brother Karl wrestled (literally) a 20-pound red drum to their kayak on a trip to Hungars Creek on Virginia’s lower Eastern Shore. Apparently, it’s one heck of a fish story, so I’ve got to get the full scoop.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly