Annapolis man is crab-picking king at Md. Seafood Festival
As the 44th Maryland Seafood Festival approaches, a three-time contest champ discusses how he clawed to the top
Is there any single best technique to this?
Every year there are a few people who pick the way they would at home — going for the legs, the claws, everything. I guess they're creatures of habit. They don't do very well.
My first year, I tried using a crab knife. I learned that for every second you're dealing with a knife, you could be picking meat. So I use my bare hands.
From there, I use three major steps. First, I hold it like this and just pull the top shell [carapace] off. Then – again, using my bare hands – I break the crab's body into two halves. Then I take each half, [crush] it as hard as I can, and pull off the meat that [is forced out]. That seems to give me a lot of quantity.
The guys who go only for the backfin have a good idea, but I think it takes too much time to focus on one part. I rely on strength.
Are there downsides to a power approach?
Sure. See this finger here? [He displays a scar from a half-inch gash.] I did that the first year I won. And yes, it bled. The meat ended up kind of pink. Now I tape my thumbs — and the first two fingers on each hand — before a competition.
Any other little pointers?
The rules don't say you have to completely fill a cup before beginning on the next cup. I go on to my next cup as quickly as possible. When opponents see you piling up the cups, it can psyche them out.
How quickly can you pick a crab?
Doing it at home — about a minute. In competition, about half that, though a lot depends on circumstances.
There are different phases of a crab's life. They depend on phases of the moon. Crabs slough their shells just after the full moon, so if you catch them right after that, their shells are softer. If the crabs are soft, it's easier.
The first year I won , the shells were really soft. That year was my personal best [for weight] — I got 11/4 pounds in [the] five minutes.
Last year, the shells were a lot harder. I picked 0.89 pounds. It was still good enough to win.
Aside from winning, what do you enjoy about the competition?
I like that it's family-oriented. The early heats are held under a tent, and it can get pretty competitive, but your friends and family are there, hollering and cheering you on. For the finals, my family and friends have always been there. Some buddies of mine sit up front, yelling at me the whole time: "You're gettin' beat! You're gettin' beat!" It's great motivation.