Spring blooms with jimmies

Crab Corner

May 20, 1999|By Mike Kobus | Mike Kobus,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Monday, May 10, began much like any other day. I awoke to the sound of the clock-radio at 3 a.m., jumped out of bed and soon the house was filled with the smell of frying bacon and eggs. However, this was not just any other day. It was the day of my first crabbing trip of the year, and I was filled with anticipation of being out on the water and pulling in the first big jimmies of the season.

Bundled in coat and hat, since the morning air was still brisk, I set out for the Eastern Shore with my son and godson, heading for my favorite crabbing spot, a shallow creek south of the Bay Bridge. Upon entering the creek, the boys quickly baited the 40 traps with chicken necks and tossed them into the water, as the boat moved along slowly.

With great expectation, I pulled up the first trap to discover a large male, missing both claws and still covered with mud, that had crawled out from its winter resting spot to feed after smelling my bait.

As the morning progressed, we took turns pulling the traps, averaging four to five large, heavy males per run. Females are not usually caught in the middle to upper bay areas in the spring, since every fall they return to the ocean, where, after hibernating, they bear their young before migrating back up the bay.

After catching 28 crabs in three hours, we decided to try our luck at Wye River. Before leaving the creek, we stopped to talk to a commercial man, who had caught only seven crabs on a trotline.

Using a trotline in the spring before the water warms can prove disappointing since crabs holding onto the bait often let go as they approach the cool surface water.

At 10: 15 a.m., we left the creek and headed for Wye River, once again laying 40 traps, then checking them twice. As expected, we caught only one crab, since the water in the Wye is deep and still quite cool, and may not be productive until mid-June, along with the Miles River, which runs adjacent to the Wye and shares its mouth. Pictures of this day can be found on my Web site (http: //www.members.home.net/thecrabman).

Other spots for early crabs include the shallow waters of the bay around the Crisfield area and the creeks off the Patapsco, where residents are averaging three to six crabs per day in pots tied to piers.

In addition, you may find some active crabs in creeks near power plants, where the water is warmed by the plants' operations.

If you are planning to go out for crabs during the Memorial Day holiday, be sure to call ahead for reservations, as restaurants are bound to be crowded.

If you intend to purchase live or steamed crabs from a carryout, try shopping on the phone first to get the best deal, asking the price, size, weight and where they are from, as crabs have a slightly different taste depending on their environment.

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