Crabbing is Good Family Fun and Fine Dining for All
By Dennis Doyle
Fall crabbing charters are running again and can be a great on-the-Bay opportunity for families and small groups of friends to get ahold of one of the Chesapeake’s most delicious meals.
The crabbing charter adventure is generally a trotline operation that can result in up to two bushels of jimmies by noontime and since some operations include onboard or post-cruise cooking, what’s not to love about that?
A charter operation involves laying out about a thousand feet or so of a 5/8-inch line suspended between two buoys and baited every 4 to 6 feet with either chicken necks or small bags containing razor clams, both of which are the blue crab’s favorite meals. One of the crabbing participants (and perhaps a backup volunteer or two) will wield a net at the ready and, while the craft slowly moves down the line and lifts it to the surface, they will artfully capture any crab eating a bait and deposit it in a ready basket.
This also provides an opportunity for the rest of the guests to congratulate or comment on the skill of each netter, though this may require some conflict management skills within the group. More often, it is the source of much mutual merriment.
The boats usually involved in such affairs are substantial, U.S. Coast Guard inspected and covered for weather. Even in the case of mildly objectionable climate conditions, an outing usually proceeds without problems or discomfort though participants are advised to dress prepared for a day on the Bay. Drinks and snacks are generally welcome onboard, for grown-ups and kids alike.
The crabs at this time of year are going to be at their most numerous. Feeding up for the coming winter and no longer shedding their exoskeletons, they will also be at their fattest and most tasty selves. And the charters, considering the cost of crab dinners these days, are most economical.
The only downside to this activity will be your departure time. Be prepared to rise and assemble by dawn, although each charter operation has its own guidelines and a later departure time can be arranged. Most of the blue crab action, however, will likely occur in the early hours, though you just never know what Mr. Crab is going to do nor when he’s going to do it.
The one thing that is certain is that everyone will have a great time, as crabbing is one of the most celebrated and hallowed activities that occur on the Tidewater. There’s bound to be someone in the party who has never caught a crab before, but everyone should try it once. It makes life on and around the Chesapeake more colorful and gives us an extra level of appreciation for every crab dinner, not to mention the freshest and sweetest jimmies they’ve ever eaten.
The rockfish bite continues to slowly improve with the cooling temperatures. Larger fish are more common and willing to eat whatever bait or lure is presented. Trolling produces keeper fish and chumming is beginning to turn on well. The live lining bite still results in quality sized fish and will as long as the spot remain in the area, which means not for long. The Spanish mackerel bite is moving steadily south as the weather cools with the best action now centered around the Deale area. Bluefish are still hanging around and the birds are the best indicator of their presence. Perch alone remain the saving species of the Bay as they can usually be counted on to provide action as well as excellent eating.