I bought a dozen steamed crabs a couple of nights ago, and after paying for them couldn't decide whether I should eat them or pack them away as a retirement investment!
The best way to enjoy a dozen or more crabs without taking out a second mortgage is to catch your own. Crabbing is fun, easy and inexpensive.
Hand-lining is the most common method of catching our prized blue crabs. All you do is tie on a piece of bait (the most popular being a raw chicken neck), and toss it out into the Chesapeake, off a tidal bridge or dock.
Most folks work a number of hand lines at a time.
The technique is to slowly pull in the line and collect the crab attached to the bait with a long-handled wire mesh net that can be bought, along with long-handled tongs used for handling the crabs, at just about any tackle store.
The next most popular method of collecting your own crabs is to use a collapsible trap. These, too, are available at most tackle shops.
The trap is a small, square wire cage. Tie a rope to the trap, use an empty plastic jug as a buoy at the other end of the rope, fasten a chicken neck or back to the bottom of the trap with wire and toss the trap into the drink. The sides will collapse, exposing the bait.
Crabbers are allowed to use up to 10 collapsible traps per person. Check each trap frequently by simply pulling it to the surface.
A trotline is the most efficient method used by sport crabbers. In this method, up to 1,000 feet of line (2,000 feet if two persons are crabbing out of the same boat) are laid on the bottom with chicken necks or similar baits tied off via droppers every few feet.
A buoy of some sort is used to mark the ends of the line and anchors are attached to hold the line on the bottom.
Most trotliners work in pairs and use a jury-rigged roller. The end of the line is laid across the roller and while one crabber runs the boat beside the line, his partner nets the crabs as they are exposed.
In addition to chicken necks and backs, other popular baits include heavily salted 4- to 6-inch sections of eel and, according to a couple of experienced Eastern Shore crabbers that I trust, bull lips cured in brine. All of this is available from butcher shops.
Sport crabbers are allowed to catch a bushel of crabs per person per day for personal consumption, but no more than two bushels of crabs per boat.
The minimum size limit for hardshell crabs is 5 inches from point to point and 3 1/2 inches for soft crabs.
Boating safety course
A boating safety course certified by the Department of Natural Resources will begin tomorrow evening and continue through June 26 at Kinder Park. Call (410) 222-6244 for details.
On July 6, 7 and 8, the same course will be given at Anne Arundel Community College, and you can register by calling (410) 541-2325.
Spring turkey results
Six turkeys were bagged during Anne Arundel County's first modern-era spring turkey season.
Statewide, a record 2,440 were bagged. The top county was Garrett with 722.
Learn fly-casting free
A free public casting clinic is offered by Maryland Fly Angler, Inc. at 7:30 p.m. June 28, at Spring Lake Pond, near Timonium. Information: John Benson, (410) 665-3395.