Dock of bay, hand lines perfect fit


Crab corner

July 01, 1999|By Mike Kobus | Mike Kobus,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Last Monday was the long-awaited first day of summer, bringing warmer weather, longer days and, of course, more crabs! What better way to spend a lazy summer day than hand-lining with the kids, creating fond memories -- many of us remember that special person who took us on our first crabbing adventure.

The great thing about hand-lining is that it's relatively inexpensive, easy to learn and enjoyable for all ages. All you need is a ball of sturdy string, chicken necks, a net and a pier or shoreline from which to crab.

Great places for hand-lining on Maryland's Western Shore include Fort Smallwood State Park on the Patapsco River and Sandy Point State Park, which is next to the Bay Bridge.

In Southern Maryland, Point Lookout State Park offers hand-lining from the causeway; Matapeake State Park and Romancoke Park are good places to try on the Eastern Shore.

The parks tend to get quite crowded on weekends, so try crabbing on weekdays.

On arrival at the crabbing spot, the first step in hand-lining is to cut string into 12-foot pieces -- longer if the pier is very high or the water is deep. Tie a fresh, skinless neck to the string and toss it into the water.

If the current is strong, attach a one-quarter-ounce sinker to the neck, since crabs are mainly bottom feeders. Tie your lines to the pier, spacing them about eight feet apart.

After waiting a few minutes, the line should become taut as a crab begins to feed. Slowly pull up the line, finger over finger, until the crab comes into view. Quickly, but carefully, net the crab, before the speedy creature has time to make a getaway.

When crabbing from a high pier, such as the one at Matapeake, you will need a long-handled net.

Although crabs can be caught at any time, crabbing during the incoming high tide seems to provide the best chance for success, since crabs often crawl into the protective grasses of the shallows to feed, mate and slough.

Remember that a hard crab must measure at least five inches point to point to be legal.

Once you get your crabs home, you may want to refrigerate them or put them on ice. Crabs that have been chilled tend to be easier to handle and don't lose their fins or claws during the steaming process.

There's nothing that gets a mouth watering quicker than the smell of crabs steaming in your own kitchen.

Use either a three-piece steamer or a large pot and a rack, making sure that the crabs stay above the liquid so that they avoid becoming soggy.

The first step is to put several cups of water, vinegar and, if desired, beer in the bottom part of the steamer.

Next, wet the crabs and place them in the pot, sprinkling each layer with a handful of crab seasoning, such as Old Bay, Baltimore Spice or JO Spice.

Put the pot on the stove on high heat. After about 10 minutes, check to see if the crabs have turned red. This is the point at which you begin timing. Steam them for 10 minutes on high and then 10 minutes on medium high for perfect crabs.

For more information and a great recipe for crab imperial, visit my Web site at http: //

Baker on vacation

Peter Baker is on vacation. His outdoors column will return next Thursday.

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