It’s going to be a good summer for crabs
Even with looming thunderstorms in the forecast this past weekend, it was a gorgeous time to be outdoors. My family and I headed down to Point Lookout State Park on Saturday morning.
I read recently that park attendance across the United States is at all-time highs, and some popular parks soon might need to limit the number of daily entrants. My husband and daughter went to Mount Rushmore recently, and even as it was getting dark and raining down pretty hard, the parking lot was overflowing with cars and no empty spots.
Lucky for us, Point Lookout wasn’t teeming with cars. Many people were out and about — a few fishermen were already set up by the side of the road when we got there and some kayakers were paddling out near the marina — but the park was still as serene and picturesque as ever.
Down by the marina a family crabbing from the floating docks caught my eye. As I’ve said in the past, I can’t pass a pier piling without looking down for a crab hanging on. And this morning didn’t disappoint. That crab report was right. It’s going to be a good summer for crabs.
There were crabs dangling for many of the pilings and a few climbing around the rocks on the shoreline. They were nice and big, too. I may have even seen a doubler (a rare sight these past few years) that uncoupled right as a peered down. It might have been my hopeful eyes playing tricks on me. The family had already netted half a dozen beautiful male crabs in the 20 minutes they had been there.
It’s a good thing school is almost over because my girls and I have a lot of crabbing to do this summer.
New crab trap
A new kind of crab trap is on the market. Sold under the name “Crab Alert,” this collapsible trap has doors that close automatically when a crab tugs on the bait. Then a float rises to the surface to signal a crab has been caught.
Any crab trap that closes without manual force is illegal to use in Maryland. According to Maryland regulation, a collapsible crab trap must close manually, have no more than four sides and have a flat bottom no bigger than 20 inches by 15 inches.
I don’t know about you, but a mechanized crab trap sounds like it would take all the excitement out of recreational crabbing. One of our most memorable crabbing trips as a family was the time we pulled up our collapsible trap and found a big flounder instead of any crabs. We pulled the trap up a little while later and had caught a second big flounder off the bottom. We didn’t have crabs for dinner that night, but my kids enjoyed plenty of giggles that day.
You don’t need license to catch crabs in the Chesapeake Bay or its tidal tributaries. A recreational crabber may crab without a license 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from docks, piers, bridges, boats and shorelines using only dip nets and any number of handlines. If you decide to use a manually-closing collapsible trap, you’ll need a recreational individual crabbing license that’s just $5 or only $2 if you already hold a Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Sport Fishing License. The minimum size to keep a crab is five inches and you can only keep males.
Many places have blue crabs
When someone mentions lobster, the rocky coasts of Maine come to mind. Trying to hook a champion largemouth bass would probably turn your thoughts to a state down south, maybe someplace like Alabama. And when you hear the words “blue crabs,” you undoubtedly think … New Jersey?
I’m biased, of course, but I usually think of Maryland and turn my nose up to Virginia. Actually the natural range for blue crabs
along the Atlantic coast stretches all the way from Nova Scotia to Argentina. So I suppose New Jersey has a right to claim them, too.
And New Jersey has one-upped our state by holding an annual crabbing tournament that’s been going on nearly seven years now. This year, the Assault on Patcong Creek is taking place on June 25 near Somers Point, N.J.
I’ve been to all sorts of tournaments held here in Maryland — rockfish, catfish, and even jousting. And I’ve even witnessed an informal crab race a few times in my tenure working at a waterfront restaurant as a teenager, but I can honestly say I’ve never been to a bona fide crabbing tournament before.
Teams can participate in one or two days of the tournament and they can use recreational traps, handlines, or even bring a boat and run a trotline. The winner doesn’t have to catch the most crabs or even the prettiest, just the very biggest to win. Length is measured from point to point and I’d venture to say that Maryland’s nine-inch record would beat out most New Jersey crabs.
Last year, over 120 crabbers from nine different states competed in the event. This year, all the slots are filled up already and there’s a waiting list to get in on the tournament at www. assaultonpatcongcreek.com. And I can see why so many people want a spot.
The winning team gets their names etched on the coveted Assault on Patcong Creek trophy. And the winning crab is taken to a taxidermist and spends the next year on the wall for the visitors to the Atlantic City Bass Pro Shops to marvel at.
The money raised at this tournament helps to sponsor educational opportunities for youth. In 2014, the tournament provided tuition assistance for two eighth-graders to attend the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife’s summer camp. In 2015, it covered a portion of the cost to send more than 100 sixth-grade students on an environmental field trip aboard a local vessel to trawl with marine biologists.
I can’t think of a better way to make a difference in kids’ lives while promoting the importance of our natural resources.
It is tradition for all of the crabbers to contribute their haul to the steam pot for a big crab feast that takes place after the tournament. The record is 17.25 bushels of crabs caught during the morning on the water. Nearly 300 people came out for the after-party last year, which also included fresh roasted pigs, clams and, of course, lots of beer.
Clearly this crab tournament thing needs to catch on in Maryland. It sounds like a lot of fun and the crab feast afterwards would be delicious because everyone knows Maryland crabs are the best eatin’ crabs around.