Wednesday December 11, 2013; 04:07 am EST
Let Summer Begin
It started out as a tip from a friend. Fooling with his crab line in a distant, shallow cove, he had discovered a bumper load of crabs weeks earlier than he had ever encountered anywhere else on the Chesapeake. I wanted in on that.
Experience with chasing the delectable Chesapeake blue crab had convinced me that catching enough for a good feast was probably not going to happen until mid-June. Before then, it always seemed that our state’s hallowed crustaceans had risen from their winter slumber and were moving about, but they weren’t concentrated anywhere enough to make the effort worthwhile. Perhaps this year was going to be different.
Baiting my crab line, prepping my skiff and getting a good night’s sleep, I resolved to find out if something, somehow, had changed. The next morning, driving a ways south to the secret location, I launched right at sunup. After a brief run, I arrived at a shallow cove and laid out my trot line with guarded optimism.
--The first run was disappointing. Perhaps, I thought, my friend’s story had been a bit of an exaggeration. Then as the morning sun warmed up the shallow waters, the jimmies began to show up on my line with ever-increasing regularity.
Crabbing alone that morning, I also began to experience a difficulty I hadn’t expected. The tasty critters wouldn’t hold onto the bait. They were dropping off well below the surface and proving damnably elusive to net. But I was determined.
Soon, after making a few adjustments to my boat speed and my net technique, they began to drop into my basket with satisfying regularity— though I still missed a maddening number of crabs. Their size was nothing to brag about, but their increasing numbers were inspiring.
Then another unexpected situation developed. It was going to be a race to fill my bushel before the bait disappeared. Even considering the substantial number of crabs I’d seen on my trotline, from the rapidly deteriorating condition of my chicken necks there were far more crabs munching unseen, down below. I had to redouble my efforts.
It was a close call. By the time the bright sun, clear water and thoroughly mauled baits had nixed my crabbing for the day, I had finally garnered most of a bushel. That was certainly enough for a good feed. Declaring victory, I headed home.
Around my house, regardless of the calendar, real summer doesn’t begin until we’ve had the first self-caught crab feast of the season. That evening as my family sat down to the Chesapeake’s bounty heaped on our table, my wife Deborah raised a toast: “It looks like summertime is starting early for us this year.”
Yes, it was a delicious beginning.