Vol. 9, No. 26
June 28 - July 4, 2001
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Crabbing by the Book

by Allen Delaney

I've bought all the licenses I think I need, and just in case, I've bought a boat big enough for Agnes and my lawyer.

I have to get a larger boat this summer so I can bring my lawyers with me when I go crabbing. After slogging through the instructions on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website (, I've concluded that the only person allowed to crab this season is a 67-year-old, retired waitress from Baltimore named Agnes. So I'll need the lawyers to argue my case if the Natural Resource Police board my boat and discover that I'm not Agnes.

And you thought I was going to use the lawyers as bait. Shame on you. Crabs have better taste than that.

It's quite obvious that DNR, realizing that crab stocks have fallen to historic lows, needed to take drastic action by rewriting the crabbing regulations. When I began recreational crabbing years ago, the rules were simple; you caught a bushel or so of crabs, and as long as each crab measured five inches or more and none were seriously attached to any part of your body, you went home happy.

Then DNR said you couldn't crab at night. Next they shortened the season. Then they said you couldn't crab on Wednesdays. All the while, the crab population continued to diminish. So this year, after realizing human beings could still comprehend the ever-increasing crabbing regulations, DNR joined forces with the IRS to compose the 2001 regulations. (That's the year 2001. The number of regulations goes way beyond that.)

That's the only explanation I can come up with to explain why this year's crabbing regulations are as helpful as the IRS publication, "How to Set Up a Corporate Tax Structure in 912 Hair-Tearing Steps" (unless it's an overseas fiduciary, in which case you'll need form 10WD40-23, section 432, paragraphs 112-893, excluding subsection 14a through).

I'm not even going to attempt to expound on these new rules because someone will sue me, saying that I told them it was okay to use lawyers as crab bait, which is clearly not the case. You use telemarketers. What I do know, at least until the DNR/IRS decides to change the rules again - which occurs hourly - is that now you can buy a crabbing license not only for yourself but also for your vessel, as clearly explained in this actual quote from the DNR website:

Catch limits for a licensed boat:
Without any persons in the licensed boat who also possess an Individual Recreational Crabbing License;
1 bushel of hard crabs
2 dozen soft crabs or peelers

As far as I can figure, the Resource people are telling me that if my boat is licensed, it can go out by itself and catch a bushel of crabs since the regulation states, "Without any persons in the licensed boat …" If the Maryland DNR can tell me how I can get my boat to go out and catch crabs on its own, I will gladly purchase any license they require, whether it's the $2, $5, $10, $15 or $40 license.

Yes, these are the prices of the actual licenses you can purchase to go crabbing, but with each license you must use certain gear, on certain days, if you're a certain age, live in a certain state, in a certain licensed or un-licensed boat, on certain waters, at a certain time during certain months. It certainly is confusing.
In all fairness, I'm sure these new regulations were painstakingly created based entirely from the latest information provided to DNR by top scientists, microbiologists and botanists, who in turn received their data directly from LaToya Jackson's Psychic Hotline. Therefore, I decided to conduct my own research by interviewing a group of guys gathered around the bar at Ray's Pier in Benedict. This bar is not known as a watering hole for PhDs, or even those holding degrees from such prestigious schools like the Melanoma Institute for Upholstery Repair. But since it was Wednesday, it did contain a high number of men knowledgeable in this field, namely crabbers.

I asked them what they thought would make sense to increase the crab population. After a long, thoughtful half second, it was agreed that everyone, recreational as well as commercial crabbers, shouldn't keep female crabs, or 'sooks' as they're called, and that all peelers, the young molting crabs, ought to be tossed back. The consensus was that "the young’uns gotta get growed up to be keepers, and the sooks gotta release their eggs in order to get young’uns."

Pretty straight forward, but DNR will never go for it since none of these guys has a degree higher than 98.6. All they can offer is several lifetimes of experience.

So, to avoid a possible fine, I’m going to purchase all five licenses and fan them out like a deck of cards if the DNR ever decides to check my catch. But, just to be on the safe side, I’m going to Baltimore to find Agnes.

Allen Delaney laughs from Calvert County, where he earns a living as a network analyst.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly