Chesapeake Outdoors
Crabs Weren't the Only Pugnacious Ones
by C.D. Dollar

It was, perhaps, the weirdest start to a crabbing trip I have experienced. The morning began quietly enough as Kevin and I motored swiftly along the shoreline following the path of a falling moon, watching it change complexion from a pale yellow to a burnt orange as it dropped over the horizon.

For the last several seasons, the crabbing has been very poor for many watermen who earn a living catching and selling Chesapeake blue crabs. This year's Maryland Department of Natural Resources winter crab survey and a report by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science indicate that the crab population is low, the spawning numbers are down and the fishing pressure is high. The harvest to date is bearing that out, although things are reportedly picking up.

I was keenly aware of the dilemma here, but I resolved that crab stocks wouldn't greatly improve by our non-participation in this summer rite. Kevin and I decided to keep only males, and then only enough to feed our better halves and ourselves.

To this point, things had run smoothly: We had found the little creek that reportedly held nice fat crabs, paid out the 1,000-foot trotline without too much drama and were set to run the line. Then a man in pajamas came trucking down his pier, doing what I called the 'serious march,' flailing his arms about as if we were about to hit an iceberg, even though we were plenty far away from him.

Despite my young years, my hearing is weak, so all I heard were snippets of his moonlight monologue: "Move your line!" and my personal favorite, "I am trying to sleep!"

I couldn't help it but I started to laugh, softly of course, at such a display. Kevin was a bit more diplomatic and said in hushed sincerity, "Sorry, we'll try to keep it down."

Apparently that wasn't good enough, for he continued to bark at us as we moved down the line. As we tweaked the trotline to work out the kinks, he stood with arms crossed, a sentry for all the sleepless waterfront property owners against the evil sport crabbers.

The morning's run proved successful, and the rewards were worth the efforts. Many young she-crabs, females that have yet to molt and reach sexual maturity, were culled out, as were all the sooks (mature females). As for Yelling Man, Kevin and I talked briefly as to whether we could be encroaching on property rights. I scoffed at that notion, and when we were checked by The Man and Woman (also known as Natural Resources Police) later in the morning, they didn't mention a word about the lay of our line.

We were neither loud, rude or otherwise unpleasant to the light sleeper. Perhaps he doesn't understand that his waterfront privilege, which I am sure he earned, doesn't extend 200 yards offshore or that the exclusivity of his domain can't prevent a couple guys from trying to catch a few crabs. I guess all I can say is that this experience, albeit anecdotal, only adds to scientific data as to why crabs try to bite people.


Fish Are Biting

Joe Bruce, master fly fisherman and owner of the Fishermen's Edge (800/338-0053), told me early last week that he and friends have been doing well off Solomons using sinking lines and Joe's crab-colored Clouser and regular Clouser's tied on hooks up to 2/0. He has been hooking up with 18- to 24-inch rock and 2- to 3-pound bluefish as well as 24-inch Spanish mackerel. Also in the Patuxent area, Kathy Conner from Bunky's Charters (410/326-3241) reports that nice trout and big hardhead have been pulled from the Chinese Muds and that the Gas Docks are still producing stripers.

Farther south, Rick from Rick's Marine at Point Lookout (301/872-4355) says Spanish mackerel are among the breaking schools of bluefish, and that flounder fishing in Cornfield Harbor and at Buoy 70 and 72 is good. Bottom fishing and rockfishing are still excellent.

Augie from Anglers (410/974-4013) says that the bars and points above and below the Bay Bridge are producing rockfish trolling small bucktails or drifting eels and crab baits. West River and Eastern Bay drop-offs and shell bottoms have flounder and sea trout that can be taken on minnows and squid.

| Issue 30 |

Volume VII Number 30
July 29 - August 4, 1999
New Bay Times

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