On the last Monday of September, my brother, my nephews and I were treated to an interesting morning on the water with a foggy mist surrounding us, a common occurrence for this time of year. Fog can be hazardous for the inexperienced boater, and one should not attempt to navigate in it without being familiar with the area and using a compass.
Luckily, we made it about five miles down the river before the fog rolled in heavy. Crabbing in foggy conditions can be tranquil, and the sensation is one of floating through clouds comparable to looking out the window of an airplane. But without the shoreline as a background, your eyes can play tricks on you, making objects appear much larger than they really are. Eight-inch floats attached to my traps resembled large orange barrels.
When crabbing in fog, space your traps about 30 feet apart so you will be able to keep several floats in view at all times. Be careful not to lose contact with the floats, or it may be hours before you can find your equipment. Pull your traps one after the other until you reach the last trap, turn your boat around, follow the line of floats to the other end and repeat the process.
Crabbing close to the shoreline in deep water, such as the Wye River, enables you to keep the shoreline in view at all times.
My brother and I reminisced about the first time we crabbed the Wye, about 20 years ago. In spite of the heavy fog and unfamiliarity with the river, we were desperate to crab.
After driving around for about 15 minutes, not being able to see more than 20 feet in front of us, we found what we thought was a good place to crab. About two hours after dawn, as the sun burned off the fog, we foolishly realized that we were only 500 feet from the boat rental place, but nonetheless had a half-bushel of crabs to start the day.
Although the water temperature in the bay is dropping rapidly with the cool nights, crabbing remains productive, and should continue to be so until the end of October.
Be sure to bundle up, as autumn mornings may be chilly. You can always take off unnecessary clothing as the day warms. Raincoats, chest waders and boots will help keep you dry while pulling in the traps.
Crabs are now at their prime, as there is not enough time to slough then fatten up before hibernating for the winter months. A light crab may not survive the winter if it has not built up enough fat cells to survive the six-month hibernation.
The upper bay is doing better with the Bush River and Miller Island averaging two to three bushels. The Patapsco River has finally kicked in with admirable catches of two bushels or more. Potters, commercial men with crab pots, are harvesting good catches in the main stem of the bay. All rivers south of the bay continue to yield good catches, with my favorite spots, the Wye River and the Kent Narrows still supplying three bushels in four hours.
So, take advantage of this last chance to pull in the heaviest crabs of the season, before settling in for the cold winter when one longs for the taste of the finest delicacy Maryland has to offer.
For more information, please visit my Web site at www.members.home.net/thecrabman.