Volume 13, Issue 34 ~ August 25 - 31, 2005
Crab Catch
by M.L. Faunce
As summer wanes, bigger crabs become more plentiful — and cheaper.

Let the Good Times Flow
A terrific year for consumers in the crab game, where things can change on a dime

“The best is yet to come,” a chicken-necker from Pasadena commented the other day, apropos of life in general and crabbing specifically this summer 2005. Chicken-neckers are eternal optimists, riding the tide of rosy sunrises on weekend mornings, with bushels always half full, never half empty, at the happy conclusion of a day on the water. By mid-morning last Sunday, neighbor Jim had pulled in 48 crabs, enough to satisfy his crab-loving family.

Over on the Wye River where chicken-neckers convene for the big ones in fall, Barbara Schnaitman reports “crabs are moving up the river, closer all the time to the dock” at her boat-rental business. Crabbing is “pretty good,” she says. “It’s been a slow start, but now it’s gotten more normal, nothing earth shattering.”

Those who have been around the water all their lives eschew superlatives. Town Point crabber Dave Watts remarks on the season this way: “Been a little steadier than the last couple of years.”

Amid eye-catching news — a rare all-white albino blue crab caught near Odessa, Delaware; a startling two-gender crab caught in the southern Bay and now under study at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science — both optimism and caution reign.

Harvey Linton, of Linton Seafood down in Crisfield, anticipates a slow-down — but not for the same old reasons. “When the kids go back to school, it affects business,” he says. Everybody’s got crabs now, and prices are slowing down, he explains, but “people have other things on their mind besides crabs when the kids go back to school.” This time of year, he looks to other areas, places like Philadelphia, to market.

Fairhaven crabber Steve Smith says “it’s been a while since we’ve seen this volume.” But memory fades, he admits, trying to flash back 20 or 30 years ago. “There’s an expression: Things happen quick in the crab game, and things can change on a dime.”

Mel Brennan of Prince Frederick says he’s so busy selling crabs that he can’t get out to run his trotline. “Everybody knows you can get a good crab in fall, but we’re getting about the best summertime crab I’ve ever seen,” he reports. “We’ve got so many crabs now, I do whatever I can to sell crabs and keep boats working. “He anticipates lots of good deals on September crabs. “I expect to see No. 1 crabs for $10 a dozen later in the season,” he says.

Bill Sieling, volunteer director of Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association, says this August is “an interesting period. We’re starting to get a lot of crabs, and the quality just keeps getting better and better.” But, he adds, “Everyone is saying the same thing. “It’s a terrific year for consumers, but the watermen are getting medium prices, and the retailers don’t seem to lower their prices.”

In an industry where crabs seem to run in three- or four-year cycles, “maybe we’re in the first year of an upward swing,” he says.

This Week’s Crab Source — local crabs served to your the table

Skippers Pier, Deale

  • Small-Medium Mixed Males: $34.95 the dozen

Stoney’s Seafood House, Broomes Island

  • No. 1 Males: $46 the dozen
  • No. 2 Males: $32 the dozen

Cantlers Seafood Restaurant, Annapolis

  • Large Males: $40 the dozen
  • Medium Males: $25 the dozen

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