Volume XVII, Issue 29 # July 16 - July 22, 2009

Fish Are Biting

And they’re biting very well. Love Point continues to be a chumming hotspot for rockfish, as do Podickery and Hackett’s to a lesser extent. There are tons of stripers to the south at Breezy Point and the Gas Docks, and Bloody Point is producing a few as well. Croaker are showing at Sandy Point, Matapeake and Romancoke, especially in the evenings. Big spot are also around the mid-Bay, particularly the mouth of the South River. Bluefish are still scattered, but some are measuring to 21 inches. Cownose rays are well distributed, as usual, with new interest in these Chesapeake visitors as seafood lovers discover that with proper preparation they can be delicious.

A Maryland Welcome

Feed your visitors blue crabs, and they’ll want to stay

It was 4am when I rousted our young visitor from his slumber. But Sean had no trouble getting up and ready for a real Chesapeake-style adventure.

He and his mom, my cousin Karen, were visiting from New Mexico. Karen grew up in this area, but 13-year-old Sean had never been here. I thought there would be no better way to welcome him to our fair state than to take him on a crabbing expedition.

My son Rob was accompanying us to show Sean the ropes of scooping the tasty blue devils off a trotline and to help with the culling. By the time we all had breakfast, loaded up and arrived at the boat ramp, the sun was just beginning to show.

But after launching and heading out, our trip ran into difficulty. A corroded coil connection on my outboard announced its presence at about the halfway point to our destination. It reduced our speed to a crawl, but we soldiered on.

Since I use an electric trolling motor for running the trotline and since we weren’t particularly distant from the launch ramp, I figured that at the worst we would have a slow trip back. Then we ran into another problem.

The spot we intended to crab was already being worked by a commercial crabber. His extensive trotline took up most of the workable area of the cove. There weren’t many prospects within range of our sputtering outboard.

We finally laid our line out along a long wooded shoreline of a small, nearby creek. It didn’t look particularly promising, and I did not have high hopes for success. But I had forgotten how much the fish gods love youngsters.

On our very first run on the trotline, the crabs started coming in so fast that after netting one there was barely time to free the net for the next. And they weren’t just legal-sized jimmies; they were jumbos. Many were over seven inches, and there was no need to measure the others because they were obviously legal.

The bite slowed with the tide, but within two hours we had our bushel and were on our way back, smiling and chugging along on one cylinder. Arriving home we had an impromptu victory celebration. Then after showers and a nap (for me at least), we began the preparations.

The Feast

The boys fetched our crab steamer and the burner out of the shed, and I fired it up. Putting the requisite mixture of beer, vinegar and water into the cooker and getting it boiling hot, I added the just-caught crabs and spices and set the timer for 25 minutes.

Cousin Karen shucked a bag full of Maryland Silver Queen while the rest of us spread out layer after layer of newspapers on the dining room table. Then we dug out our trusty crab knives and mallets and poured small dipping dishes full of vinegar and some butter. I iced down lots of sodas and a plentiful supply of adult beverages, and we got ready to eat.

Within a short time, everyone was up to the elbows in bright-red crab shells and making little conversation, except of course for moans of gustatory pleasure. The crabs were fantastic. Despite the closeness of the full moon, there wasn’t a light jimmy in the bunch; they were all sweet and heavy.

The next day, Karen spent the afternoon with my wife looking at houses for sale around the neighborhood. Maryland crabs will do that to you.

© COPYRIGHT 2009 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.