License fee can leave you crabby Little guy gets hit hard again

OUTDOORS

June 13, 1993|By LONNY WEAVER

Run down to the market and buy your chicken necks now, because this may be your last chance to put some steamed crabs on today's Sun without contributing to the state's treasury.

The Department of Natural Resources claims that about half a million of us have, for generations, been having too much fun for free while soaking our chicken necks in search of crabs.

With the blessing of the governor, it intends to make you purchase a $7 license just as fast as a list of emergency measures can be sent through the required legislative process.

Within the next week or two so the DNR can rake in the dollars covered by this year's April 1-Dec. 31 season.

No doubt something needs to be done concerning crabs. According to DNR figures, last year's commercial catch totaled 30 million pounds compared to 1991's 47 million-pound catch. The thing that rags on me is that the DNR is acting to protect the commercial interests and guess who's going to pay? Those of us who may catch a bushel or two this summer for our own use.

Of course, the gang that intends on squeezing the casual crabber has been quick to claim that some private citizens have been catching their bushel and then selling them.

Maybe some people will sell some or all of their allotted bushel, but certainly not enough folks to cause a 17-million-pound depletion in the commercial catch over the course of a year.

Perhaps the problems come from allowing something like 9,000 commercial licenses and unlimited numbers of commercial crab pots and possibly from allowing the commercial guys to crab around the clock.

Now let's take a look at how Joe and Mary Average living within driving range of the Chesapeake have been going about depleting the crab population to such an extreme.

You and I use either a net, a trot line or a crab trap.

First, try latching onto a wire net instead of the usual twine net. The wire net makes life a lot easier once you get a crab within grasp.

Now, you put on an old pair of sneakers to protect your feet from the cans, bottles and other trash and slowly walk through the water. If you see a crab, you quickly collect him with your net.

If it measures at least 5 inches from tip to tip (3 1/2 inches if a soft shell crab), that baby is in for a steaming.

If you have a boat you may want to give trot-lining a try. To a 500-foot-long (maximum length allowable) piece of rope, tie a dropper every four feet or so and attach a chicken neck to it.

Put a length of chain on each end of the rope and then a cinder block and then, tie on a plastic milk or soda bottle for beginning and ending markers. Anchor each end and run the boat down the line slowly.

When you see a crab attaching itself to one of your necks, net it. You are allowed a bushel per person or two bushel per boat per day maximum.

Netting and trot-lining, as you can see, can be physically taxing, so the crab trap was invented. This is a collapsible wire box measuring about a foot square. Tie or wire a chicken neck to the inside bottom, tie on a length of rope and attach a plastic bottle as a marker.

Every few minutes row over to the bottle and jerk up on the line, thus trapping any crab that may be feasting on your chicken neck.

You can put out five traps per person and keep up to a bushel a day per person.

Good middle Bay-area crabbing locations include the bay side and Back River side of Hart-Miller Island, Love Point, the Severn River, South River in the area of the Route 2 bridge, Cox Creek and Crab Alley over in Eastern Bay, Poplar Island, Tilghman Island and the Chesapeake Beach area. One of the most famous crab spots is Wye River.

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