Volume 13, Issue 23 ~ June 9 - 15, 2005
Crab Catch
by M.L. Faunce

Crabs Wait for Warm Water

You just about need a scorecard to keep up with the resource and environmental issues of Chesapeake Bay. Dredge surveys this spring found an increase in baby crabs, and we hear that underwater grasses are improving. Yet a new study by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science shows that female blue crabs in the Bay continue to decline.

Sometimes, it all depends upon where you are in Bay, upper, lower or tributaries. Of all the projections and discourse, Scott McGuire of Chesapeake Biological Lab in Solomons advises Bay Weekly, “you have to consider the source.” Reminds me of what I once heard a crabber say: “Nobody knows the blue crab.”

But as spring 2005 becomes summer, the real mystery of the crab is as old as time: the weather.

“It’s one of the slowest, coldest springs we’ve ever had,” says Harvey Linton of Linton’s Seafood, 33 years in business in Crisfield.

“The crabs are still out there in deep water,” Linton said in early June, echoing what others said a month earlier. “We’re three to four weeks behind. Some crabbers are just putting their boats up for a while.”

Crabs caught early in the season, Linton explains, were those buried in local waters. They ran out. But the crabs that wintered in deeper water have yet to move up.

Linton has satisfied his Internet customers, his “bread and butter.” But for abundance, he says, “It will take another shed. The second shed will come in on the moon. Once they shed, wait about two weeks. From then on in July and August, we’ll have crabs.”

Jack Brooks of Cambridge blamed the weather, too.

“We’re weather sensitive here,” he said last week. “The jet stream must have edged to the south of us. We’ll have crabs in another week or so, if the wind blows out of another direction than east.”

A similar tale continues around the Bay. Mick Blackistone at Bob Evans Seafood in Churchton reports “we’re not doing any better than last week” and probably won’t “until this weather picks up in a straight line.”

John ValAlstine, an independent waterman who sells his own catch, talks cold temperatures, too. “It’s hard to feed the world on one fish,” the Shady Side waterman lamented. “We need it to warm up.”

With crabs, it’s sometimes feast or famine.

“The crabs will be here, but will all come at one time,” Linton predicts.

“Hopefully it won’t warm up all at one time, and flood the market,” VanAlstine said.

This week’s Maryland crab source

Mike Restaurant and Crab House on the South River, Riva where “We don’t deal with Maryland crabs right now. They’re too small.”
  • Large Louisiana males: $48 the dozen;
  • Medium Louisiana males: $38 the dozen.

Cantler’s Seafood Restaurant on Mill Creek, Annapolis

  • Extra large Louisiana males: $70 the dozen;
  • Large Louisiana males: $48 the dozen;
  • Medium Maryland crabs: $30 the dozen;
  • All-you-can-eat small crabs: $18.99.

Captain Smith’s Seafood Market, Solomons

  • Large Maryland males: $35 the dozen;
  • Medium Maryland males: $24 the dozen.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.