Playing Maryland's shell game invariably a gamble in spring

Amid storms, crowds, surprise only guarantee

Crab corner

June 03, 1999|By Mike Kobus | Mike Kobus,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Crabbing in May can be very unpredictable, but with the warming weather and a forecast on the 17th calling for sunny skies and calm winds, I knew the day on the bay would be beautiful.

I headed for my hot spot and crabbed for four hours, moving the equipment often, since in the spring you can easily deplete the supply of crabs in any given area, and the payoff of 41 crabs was well worth the work.

A half bushel of beautiful males is a good catch for May.

The following Monday, my friend and I were skeptical as, at 4 a.m., we watched the weather channel forecasting 15- to 25-mph winds and severe thunderstorms with stronger gusts.

We decided to get in the car, watch the conditions and play it by ear.

Launching the boat in the Kent Narrows area, we set out across the Eastern Bay, but after encountering waves of two feet, we decided to turn back.

Disappointed at not being able to crab the creek, we decided to lay our equipment next to the Kent Narrows Bridge, behind Hog Island, which protected us from the strong southwest winds.

As thunderstorms and lightning strikes surrounded us, we were surprised when the first pull of the equipment yielded six beautiful, large, heavy males. Closely watching weather conditions, we crabbed for only three hours and caught 39 crabs, but had the weather permitted us to crab two more hours, we would easily have had a bushel.

Just after we left the launch, we drove into the worst storm of the day, which forced all traffic to pull over onto the shoulder because visibility was very limited.

As Memorial Day approached and temperatures soared above 90, we knew our next crabbing trip would be productive. With our pool open, sweet silver queen corn and watermelon in the refrigerator, all we needed to make the first summer holiday complete was a steaming hot bushel of crabs.

We set out early on Sunday morning, hoping to beat the holiday crowds, for no doubt most crabbers shared the vision of enjoying freshly caught steamed crabs on Monday.

After launching our boat at the already crowded ramp, we hurried to "our spot." As we expected, the creek was already filled with crabbers, but we still managed to find a place to drop our traps.

We filled a bushel basket in just over two hours with large, but lightweight, males that had sloughed for the first time this year.

Somewhat disappointed at the weight of the crabs, we decided to try at the Chester River, but after running the traps several times we did not catch a single crab.

Although crabbing may remain slow until mid-June, areas reporting early action include the lower bay, where crabs are small but heavy, the Choptank River near the U.S. 50 Bridge and the back bays of Ocean City, where you can expect to catch mostly females.

For pictures of the trips, a recipe for spaghetti and crabs or a copy of Maryland crabbing laws, refer to my Web site: http: //www.members.home.net/thecrabman.

Pub Date: 6/03/99

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