Crabbing on the Severn

Posted by on Oct 21, 2015 in Lessons Learned | 0 comments

Crabbing on the Severn

In Maryland, crabbing season starts three weeks after the forsythia blooms, when the crabs begin to make their way from the deep waters of the Chesapeake to the Severn. Crab lovers anxiously await the event as much as the arrival of the tall ships into the Baltimore Harbor and the 4th of July.

There are two stages of crabbing. The first stage is to load the “bait” into a trap or pot, preferably the fish “elwise”, however crabs also like chicken. The trap is constructed so the crabs are easily drawn in to the bait, but unable to escape. Once this trap is lowered into the water, crabs find their way into the trap and they remain content in until the bait is gone. Be prepared, if there is not enough bait to feed all of the crabs, the crabs will begin to eat each other. You know the rule, survival of the fittest.

The second stage is to “monitor” the crabs in the trap. Once the crabs are of ample supply in the trap, it is important to transfer them into the “holding tank” also loaded with elwise or chicken and placed in the water.

The process of “crabbing” involves going back and forth from trap to trap to make sure there is harmony, meaning plenty of food in each trap and transferring crabs from the trap to the holding tank at least once a day.

Every child awakens with anticipation to perform their first crabbing adventure. As they approach the traps, they are reluctant to get close, but lean heavily so they can see the crabs in the traps. They will ask to visit the traps several times during the day. It doesn’t matter to them that there were 2 crabs in the morning and there are 2 crabs in the afternoon.

It was the last day of the visit for our grandchildren. They had just witnessed their first crabbing activity. When asked “OK, guys, do we cook them and eat them or do we set them free?” Our granddaughter, 7 years old, very practical and the oldest of the 3 grandchildren said, “Let’s eat them.” She had never tasted crab, and hasn’t to this day at 15, but that is what she had seen adults do. However, our grandson, 5 years old at the time said “We have to set them free. We shouldn’t hurt anything that isn’t trying to hurt us. They haven’t done anything to us. Let’s let them go.”

So every summer, we put the crab pots out, we wait for crabs to arrive, we feed them, we observe them, then we set them free them and watch as they swim back into the river, well fed and ready to produce more crabs for our next year of crabbing.