CONVENTIONAL wisdom has it that crabs aren't worth messing with after Labor Day, even in Crab Town. For the really wise, however, now's the time.
"Crabs are running real good right now," said David Meiklejohn, a third-generation waterman who persists as one of the few Annapolitans still working the water.
"This is always the best time of the year," he added. "They're real fat and the prices are steadily coming down."
"October's the best," said Tom Jockel, owner-operator of McNasby's Seafood. "The demand drops off and the supply is steady. I'm selling crabs now at half the price I was on the Fourth of July. And the price figures to come down even more."
Meiklejohn and Jockel both reported strong late-season harvests.
"The best August I've had in three years," said Jockel.
"Been good for me," said Meiklejohn, who runs trotlines on the Severn River.
Neither tried to guess how long crabs will make themselves available.
Crabs fatten up for the winter before burrowing in the bottom for several months of dormancy. Males head for deep channels in the bay; females run south for the saltier water needed for spawning.
What about the prospects for next season, especially after a year of reports of poor production? "There's been plenty of little ones," said Meiklejohn. "A good sign for next year."
"I'm hearing there are a lot of little crabs," said Jockel. "But you never really know. A lot depends on the harshness of the winter, the salinity of the water, a bunch of things."
Watermen and scientists will tell you that the crab is a critter of vast unpredictability. What is predictable is their sweet taste, especially in a season when they're not supposed to be around.
Meiklejohn was lunching on crabs with his 1-year-old daughter Demi Sue when we contacted him the other day. "Good," he said of his meal.
A happy gurgle in the background seemed to agree.
Jeff Holland, whose prose resided in this spot for most of the past year, has moved on to become director of the Baltimore Waterfront Festival, descendant of the fuss that accompanied the Whitbread Round-the-World racing fleet to the Inner Harbor last year.
The festival is set for the last weekend of April next year and figures to be in place in 2002 when the fleet returns, this time under the sponsorship of Volvo. As they did last year, the yachts will visit Annapolis before they begin the eastbound run across the Atlantic.
Holland wears many hats -- bard, balladeer, organizer, composer of awful puns. Another of those hats is a tricornered one to top off the Colonial costume he wears to various functions as director of Celebrate 350 Annapolis & Anne Arundel County.
He showed up in top hat (and spats) for a 350th do with the Annapolis Symphony at Maryland Hall the other night.
He describes himself as a "schemer of rhymes" and two years ago was proclaimed Poet Laureate of Eastport by an act of the Annapolis city council.
He and pal Kevin Brooks perform as Them Eastport Oyster Boys, singing their own songs about the Chesapeake Bay. They give away a lot of their music for charity events, which is right neighborly.
Pub Date: 10/04/99