Crabbing

blue_crab

What fun today was going to be! A holiday! No chores! We were going for a boat ride to our favorite spot, very productive, a 5-foot ledge off Rock Creek, where the delicious Chesapeake Bay blue channel crabs congregate. Equipment at ready: two bushel baskets: either sturdy lines about 12-15 feet in length with leaden sinkers attached; and a good supply of chicken backs, or stinky meat from our grocer or large bull-minnows from our pier-trap in a pail of water; and 4 crab nets of various handle sizes for our family of four, each to be manning two lines.

To save time while we were cruising, brother and I tied on the bait so that we would be ready to fish these delectable creatures on arrival. But how does one capture these monsters with their two menacing clicking front pincer-claws? ?? Well, here’s how we did it:-

At a signal from Dad, we simultaneously cast our lines overboard and waited – waited for a line to stretch. Then, and only then, did we start working the stretched line – slowly and carefully. The will pull hard and eat ravenously but don’t yank, or jerk the line to frighten him or he will immediately let go.

When you have him (don’t take females) near the surface and your partner-dipper is ready, DIP. Or as you become proficient dip him yourself! Then, dump him in the bushel basket and replace the slatted basket cover, not really necessary at first or if your basket is in the shade.

081015 Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

“Who remembers the fun of crabbing with just a dipnet and a bushel basket, wading through Bay grass beds? Well, this summer, thanks to an explosion of Bay grasses, folks are getting to experience the fun of dipnet crabbing for the first time in ages! Today on Beautiful Swimmers, its all about masses of Bay grasses and the crabs that follow their comeback: http://bit.ly/1McTxLY ” – From Facebook on the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum page this day in 2015.

Soon, though, it was time for the rugged male members to shine. They made for the sea-weeded shore in the rowboat with 2 more baskets, 2 dredging nets made by my dad., and two serviceable pair of old tenners for wading.

They were going soft-crabbing in the shallows, walking through the weeds and towing my 14-foot rowboat while Mother and I stayed behind and manned all the lines for hard crabs. The hard crabs were steamed at home and picked by us for crab cakes in the evening when we got to shore, Some of the smaller ones cleaned and put into vegetable soup for our late supper: and soft crabs cleaned and fried in butter – the piece de resistance.

After WWII when metal was again available, Dad made us an aluminum crab-trap with fold-down sides that we dunked at the end of our pier and caught crabs all day. It was not the same, however, as feeling Mr. Crab tugging on your line.

Page created and published 11/23/21 (C) M. Bartlett, Article (C)2019 M. Bartlett [from an original by Helen P. Bues]
Last update 11/23/21