In hot August, oxygen-hungry crabs move nearer, sometimes on, shore

Crab Corner

August 12, 1999|By Mike Kobus | Mike Kobus,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With August's sweltering temperatures, you may be experiencing reduced crab catches because of high algae growth decreasing the oxygen in the bay's deeper sections, making it harder for the creatures to survive.

Crabs, less active to conserve energy, often retreat to shallow water, where oxygen levels, though abnormal, are higher.

Because you must now crab in 4 to 6 feet of water, crabbing becomes somewhat tricky.

You have to be careful not to tangle your equipment in the motor. Moving your equipment often helps in catching the inactive crustaceans and should result in between one and two bushels.

Crabbers now move toward the shoreline, which may become crowded.

Always remember to find shoreline you can call your own, because crabbing between another person's equipment and the shoreline will cut off his supply of crabs when, as the tide drops, crabs head for deeper water.

During hot days, making sure your crabs survive the journey from the bay to the steamer takes some extra effort.

Put your crabs into a cull basket first. Then sort and place the keepers in a basket with a tight lid.

Never submerge the basket, because you may hurt crabs struggling to rid their bodies of water so they can breathe oxygen from the air. Dipping your basket in the water makes the crabs repeat the process, weakening them. You're better off keeping them moist and cool under a damp towel.

On really hot days, I drive my crabs home on the back seat of my air-conditioned car.

I am often reminded of one morning when I was about 11 and on my way to the Patapsco River. I encountered a fascinating sight -- about a dozen crabs crawling on the beach about 5 feet from the water's edge.

As I approached, they scurried back into the water. But I now realize they had left the oxygen-depleted water to find airborne oxygen.

I have spoken with only one other person who related a similar occurrence. Crabbing on the Gunpowder River, he spotted dead fish in the water and crabs crawling on the beach and in high grass about 10 feet from the shore.

The recent fish kill in the Pocomoke River has been blamed on the high algae growth and low oxygen level, because fish do not have this ability to expel the water from their systems and breathe the oxygen in the air.

If you are careful to stay in shallow water, you will find crabs just about anywhere in the bay.

On the Upper Bay, the Bird, Gunpowder and Chester Rivers are all reporting average catches of about a bushel.

Crabbers at the Kent Narrows, Wye and Miles Rivers are reporting two to three bushels.

The Choptank, Potomac and South Rivers seem to be more productive than in recent years.

A crabber in Ocean City's Back Bay reported catching two bushels in three hours next to the 64th St. bridge.

If you are tired of picking yet still have a taste for crabs, try the following recipe, a hit at my house.

Uncle Bob's crab cakes

1 lb. Maryland back fin

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 tsp. parsley flakes

1/2 tsp. Old Bay

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/3 cup Italian style bread crumbs

2 heaping tblsp. mayonnaise

Remove cartilage from the crab meat. In a medium-size bowl, fold the remaining ingredients into crab meat. Form into six to eight balls. Fry in a deep fryer at 350 degrees for four to six minutes or until golden brown. If desired, shape into patties and pan fry, or broil in oven for eight minutes.

Information: Visit my Web site at crabman.

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