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After Booming Oyster Harvest, Maryland Crab Season Off To Slow Start

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A Maryland blue crab caught by an oyster dredge before release.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/29388462@N06/6967760060
A Maryland blue crab caught by an oyster dredge before release.

The warmer weather and the start of baseball season already has some thinking about summer barbecues, trips to the beach, and one of Maryland’s most beloved pastimes: cracking crabs. So far, however, the long winter has put a damper on the early stages of crab harvesting season.

Robert T. Brown is president of the Maryland Watermen’s Associations. He says crabbing season is off to a rough start.

“We don’t know what we got yet because a lot of the crabs are still buried in the mud and haven't moved yet,” Brown says.

That means many of the iconic waterman of the Chesapeake Bay aren't even trying to catch crabs right now. And to be frank, Brown says they won't be doing much of anything until the water temperature rises in the bay.

“The Chesapeake Bay has got 100 and some feet of water into it in a lot of places and its like 12 to 15 miles wide in a lot of places and it takes a long time to warm up that amount of water," he says.

While crabbing season may take some time get going, the oyster yield in the bay was the best in years.

It was so strong, in fact, that when Maryland waterman requested an extension of the season to make up for 10 lost days due to inclement weather, the Department of Natural Resources said no.

But Brown says what's really needed to ensure more good years like this one is more oyster shells being put back into open areas of the bay — not just the state regulated oyster hatcheries.

"There were over 400,000 bushels of oysters that were harvested this year, and that 400,000 bushels of oysters means that there were 400,000 shells we took out of the bay and we want to put them back," Brown says.

Brown says times are still tough for the Maryland waterman, and he hopes the good oyster season will segue into a plentiful crab harvest. That is, of course, if the weather would just cooperate.

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