Harvest improves, but guilt-free crab still elusive

Nobody asked me, but guilt-free steamed crab tastes best.

Nobody asked me — because I'm still abstaining from eating crabs — but … Apparently, the 2015 harvest has picked up.

"Considerably," said Robert T. Brown, Sr., president of the Maryland Watermen's Association. "I'm not going to be able to put a percentage on it yet, but it's up quite a bit, especially over in the Cambridge, Tilghman Island area." Brenda Davis, manager of the state's Blue Crab Program, confirmed reports of improving harvests. Jim Livingston, a recreational crabber who has kept catch records for 15 years, says the season started slow, but he's been trapping plenty of mature blue crabs in the West and Rhode rivers in Anne Arundel County. "And I've done well right off my dock in 2 to 4 feet of water," he says.

Angus Phillips, the former Washington Post outdoors editor who joined me in calling for a moratorium on the crab harvest last year, reported respectable catches in Annapolis-area waters. "Crabbing has finally picked up," he says. "It's not great, but it's certainly decent, better than the last two years by a lot." That does not mean Phillips has pulled back from his call for a ban on the harvest. He's happy to catch a few crabs for lunch, but he feels the resource has been exploited by commercial crabbers and brought to the brink of collapse too many times. "Conservation regs are anemic," he says. "There is too much pressure on this resource, and it's gonna continue to be whittled down." As for me, I will continue to abstain a little longer, maybe see how things look in another year. I like steamed crabs as much as any Marylander, but I prefer them a little closer to guilt-free.

Nobody asked me but … The best thing about August in Maryland is a tomato sandwich: Schmidt's Blue Ribbon white bread, sliced tomatoes, a little mayonnaise, salt and pepper. For dessert, you have the other best thing about August in Maryland: a slice of peach cake.

Nobody asked me but … It was predictable that Democrats would call for Ken Holt's resignation as Maryland housing secretary for his stupid and insensitive remarks about women trying to poison their kids to game the lead liability system. Holt bears a striking physical resemblance to Ronald Reagan, and his remark about mothers putting lead fishing weights in their kids' mouths bears a striking resemblance to Reagan's old trick of using a single anecdote of fraud to indict the entire system of social welfare. At least Holt apologized for suggesting that some women who have raised children in poor conditions abuse them in order to achieve a litigated benefit. I don't think Reagan ever apologized for cynically suggesting that women on welfare faked their poverty.

The question I have … How did Holt get this job? Didn't Gov. Larry Hogan know someone with some experience in — oh, let's see — housing? Holt served one term in the Maryland House of Delegates in the 1990s, then lost a bid for the state Senate. In 2010, he took a leave from his position as a senior vice president at Morgan Stanley to campaign for Baltimore County executive against Kevin Kamenetz. Holt helped former Gov. Bob Ehrlich develop a plan for slot machine gambling and horse racing. He was once a lobbyist for the horse industry, and he used to arrange horse auctions in the United States and in Europe. He has raised Black Angus beef cattle and horses on a historic 120-acre estate in Kingsville. Yeah, that resume really shouts "housing and community development," doesn't it?

Nobody asked me but … Hogan's call for a big change in the way Maryland congressional districts are drawn comes with the perfect optics: A map showing some of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation. Hogan wants to see an amendment to the state constitution that would put the power to redraw the maps every decade in the hands of an independent and impartial commission. Presently, the governor and General Assembly have that decennial power, after the completion of each new census. A nonpartisan commission sounds good, but keep a couple of things in mind, assuming we ever get a chance to vote on such an amendment. First, there's no guarantee that, all demographic factors considered, an independent commission would come up with maps that look much different than the present ones. Secondly, the problem for Hogan's party remains: Republicans only make up 25 percent of Maryland voters. Unless that changes before 2020, the time of the next census, even an impartial commission would likely give the GOP an advantage in no more than two of the state's eight districts.

A word I love … Ubiquitous, meaning, "present, appearing, or turning up everywhere." Derived from the Modern Latin, it was originally "a Lutheran theological position maintaining the omnipresence of Christ," according to the Online Etymological Dictionary. Here's how I would use it in a Modern English sentence: "In Baltimore, nothing says ubiquitous like a Big Boyz Bail Bonds pen."

drodricks@baltsun.com

Dan Rodricks' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He is also host of "Midday" on WYPR-FM.

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