Two things are synonymous with an East Coast summer -- humidity and crabs.
While the hazy, hot and humid weather of mid-July is not welcomed by everyone, for the area's crabbers they go together like boardwalk fries and vinegar. You can't have one without the other.
While the summertime temperatures bake us terrestrials, the Chesapeake Bay's underwater army of crabs marches north. The season started nearly two months ago for the bay's southern crabbers. And now that the temperatures have just about reached their peak, those of us that frequent the estuary's northern reaches are about to get in on the action.
Although the early reports show a tauntingly slow start to the season in favorite feeders such as the Gunpowder, Back and Bush rivers, seasoned crabbers know it's only a matter of time.
As we get close to August's first full moon (there will be two next month, meaning we'll get the rare "blue moon" at the month's end), the crabbing will get better with each new day. Within five to eight weeks, the action will reach its peak.
This year, it's likely to be spectacular. The most recent dredge survey showed our tame winter was good for the blue claw population. The experts say there are some 764 million crabs crawling along the bay's floor.
That means cunning crabbers should have no problem reaping the benefits of a bountiful harvest with a summertime tradition -- a crab feast.
How do you get in on the action? Crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay is not a difficult task. But it does require a hands-on approach if you want to plop a bushel or two of the tasty crustaceans on your picnic table.
If your goal is quantity, you've got two options, a trotline or traps.
Bait up 1,200 feet worth of trotline with some fresh bait (cheap chicken necks work just fine) and stretch it across the bottom in six to 12 feet of water.
Or you can take the simpler route and make a set of two dozen or so traps. There's a variety to choose from. As usual, you get what you pay for.
The cheap cotton round traps work fine, but their lifespan is short. The more-expensive collapsible square traps are best, but they'll cost you a pretty penny. I go with something in the middle -- metal round traps. And yes, chicken necks are my bait of choice.
That is what is great about hot-weather crabbing. It's not a competition to see who has the nicest gear and the shiniest boat.
In fact, I've seen some horrendously ugly boats on the crabbing grounds. But you know what -- they were loaded with crabs.
Summertime crabbing is about getting outside and on the water. Start when the sun first crosses the horizon and the chances are good you'll be limited out and back home by lunchtime.
That means by the time the mercury rises, you'll already have a cold drink in your hand and a few fat crabs on your table.
-- Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.