Two things are synonymous with a mid-Atlantic summer, humidity and crabs. While the hazy, hot and humid weather of summer is not welcomed by everyone, sultry weather and crabs 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.
It is still a bit early in the season for favorite hotspots like the Gunpowder, Back, and Bush Rivers, but seasoned crabbers know it's only a matter of time until the action is red hot.
As the summer matures and the weather gets hotter, the crabbing will getter better with each new day. Within five to eight weeks, the action will reach its peak.
It looks like it will be another impressive season. The most recent dredge survey showed, despite another rough winter, the blue claw population is healthy. The experts say there are some 411 million crabs crawling along the bay's floor, up nearly 30% from last year's figure.
"Despite the harsh winter temperatures, we are pleased that crab numbers increased," said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton. "This is good news for the crabs and for Marylanders who enjoy them all summer long."
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 line 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 is an outdoors columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org