By Cheryl Costello
A 26-year-old Pasadena waterman has amassed more than a million fans from around the world—all on the video-sharing platform TikTok.
How did Luke McFadden get so internet-famous? He started making videos of the crabbing life, teaching people where their seafood comes from in an easy-to-understand format. Bay Bulletin caught up with him at his crab-selling business on a busy 4th of July weekend.
McFadden has been crabbing since he graduated from Chesapeake High School in Pasadena—rain or shine.
He catches the crabs and checks them before he sells them. “We squeeze the crabs,” he shows us. “You push on the shell and if it’s got no give to it, that crab is as full of meat as he’s ever going to get.”
About a year ago, McFadden started creating videos from TikTok to show people the hard work it takes to make a living crabbing.
“People are just really disconnected from their food, you know? People don’t really understand how a crab like this goes from the water to their table,” McFadden says. “And you hear people whine about the price of crabs and stuff a lot, but people have no idea what it really takes to catch these crabs and really bring a true, wild-caught Maryland crab to your table.”
It takes a lot of hours. McFadden calls it “dark-to-dark work”.
“I get up at 4:30 every day, leave the house by 5, and we meet at the boat by 5:30…And then we haul gear, depending on where the gear is. We have eight hours after sunrise to work and haul gear. Then we get back, I go through the crabs, I put them all in the refrigerator, I put orders together throughout the week. I have to get bait and fuel for the next day. I gotta fix anything on the boat that’s broken.”
You get the idea.
McFadden catches crabs Monday through Friday and sells at his stand, Bodkin Point Seafood, Friday through Sunday, but he’s always available for call-in orders.
He bought the land for his crab stand off East Furnace Branch Road in Glen Burnie so he could sell directly to customers. Former banker Barb Lewis helped him through the process, joking that she was his “bank mom.”
“I knew him when he was struggling to sell crabs to businesses and then he came in one day and said, ‘What do you think about me buying a piece of property?’ and I told him it was a great idea and a great location,” Lewis recalls.
On the day we visited, customer Ruby Dumesh showed up to McFadden’s stand to support the local business. “This is hard work to me. Crabbing is not easy. And for him to do something like this, you have to have a passion for it,” Dumesh said.
McFadden’s passion is working the water—and learning everyday. “I couldn’t stand school. I was a horrible student,” he says. “But I love to learn…and I like to learn things I’m interested in. So I make TikToks that I would want to watch, explained in a way that I would understand it.”
In one video with 1.7 million views, McFadden shows how he cuts a crab crate to make it easier to close the lid. In others, he shows off wildlife discovered around Bodkin Creek near the mouth of the Patapsco River, like dolphins and rays.
His videos resonate. McFadden says he sells Bodkin Point Seafood swag to people from all over the world. “I ship stuff to Canada, I ship it to Alaska, I’ve shipped it to Australia, I’ve even shipped it to Malaysia before,” he says.
McFadden sold out of crabs over the holiday weekend, giving him some time off before he got back on the water and back online—to give us a firsthand lesson on what it takes to be a waterman. “From the boat to your throat, there’s a lot that goes into that,” McFadden quips.
Follow McFadden at @fvsoutherngirl.