Sizing Season’s First Crabs
With strains of the “My Old Kentucky Home” playing in the background, Karen Mitchell of Churchton sat down to a tray of crabs with her family at Abner’s Restaurant and Crab House in Chesapeake Beach. Having crabs is one way Marylander’s celebrate special occasions. Mitchell was celebrating not the 131st running of the Kentucky Derby but the arrival of week-old grandson, Roman, who appeared in time for Mother’s Day and attended his first crab feast. Tiny Roman slept through the fun, but his mother says he’s already had crabs: “I ate a lot of crabs when I was carrying him.”
Abner’s Lynora Foster said all their crabs are local: $55 for large males, $35 for mixed males, $20 for females per dozen. Not many patrons paid attention to the derby; they were focused on crabs.
Just outside, charter-boat captains were warming their engines, telling fishermen climbing on board that “this is the best time of the year to get a big rock while they’re spawning.”
For dinner, I stopped by my local market and picked up fresh shucked oysters. Such is May in Maryland, a season full of promise and lingering riches from the Chesapeake Bay.
Some said the crabs at Abner’s tasted sweet, but they looked small. Consumers are often confused about advertised sizes: Number 1’s, 2’s, Super Jumbos and so on.
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, minimum size for harvesting male hard crabs from April 1 to July 14 is five inches for crabs. From July 15 to December 15, the legal size for male crabs increases to five and one-quarter inches. Crabs are measured point to point. There’s no minimum size for mature females.
Minimum size for soft crabs is three and one-half inches the entire season.
But how about buying those same crabs live or steamed from your local purveyor?
Mel’s in Prince Frederick offers his grading guidelines:
Super Jumbos - six and three quarters inches and up
#1 Males - five and three quarters inches and to six and three quarters inches
#2 Males - five inches to five and three quarters inches
Think of crabs and you think of crab houses on the water, the briny scent of the Bay and the din of wood mallets banging on brown paper-covered-picnic tables. That’s not the whole truth nowadays.
Many establishments, including the 50-year-old W.H. Harris Seafood at Kent Narrows in Grasonville, now sell crabs over the Internet. Order on-line and the Bay’s bounty will be shipped to you, live or seamed, by the bushel or half-bushel.
At Harris Seafood on land rather than on line, steamed jumbos this week sold for $67 a dozen with extra large $52, large $42 and medium $28.
||This week’s crab source:
Shoreline Seafood in Gambrills
dozen 1/2-bushel bushel
Females $25 N.A. N.A.
—regular $1950 $75 $149
—medium $29 $89 $175
—large $3950 $99 $195