Sign of summer: Crabbing season kicks off

Dave Blazer, director of fishing and boating services for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, is optimistic about this year's crabbing season. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON — It is a sign that summer is on the way — crabbing season officially kicked off Saturday in the Chesapeake Bay.

So what will the blue crab season bring?

Right now, it is still too early to tell.

“We’re pretty optimistic that it’ll be decent. But we don’t have any data yet to really tell us whether it’s really good or really bad,” said Dave Blazer, director of fishing and boating services for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

He said they recently wrapped up their crab population studies (a winter dredge survey) this past week and that their biologists are analyzing the data.

“So, we should have some more information probably in about three to four weeks as to how we think the season may go,” he said.

He said the winter dredge survey was done in both in Maryland and Virginia and that they jointly manage crabs.

“We survey several hundred to a thousand different locations in the bay looking for overwintering crabs,” he explained.

The survey will give them an indication of how the crab season will shape up.

Blazer said crabs enter something like hibernation during the winter. They burrow down in the mud when it gets cold.

“So they dig themselves down and then when the water gets warmer they’ll start coming out and moving around. But in the winter they really don’t move. They just burrow down,” he said.

He said that is why they dredge for the crabs.

“Our biologists go out, Virginia does theirs and Maryland does ours. They go out and pull the dredge behind the boat and pick up overwintering crabs,” Blazer said.

Since the D.C. area saw a mild winter, there is a chance that a lot of the crabs may not have frozen and died from extreme cold temperatures, he said.

Blazer noted that a couple seasons ago, they focused on management to protect female crabs and it paid off.

But on the other hand, he said the male crab population has stayed relatively low.

“So we’re still a little bit concerned about that,” he said. “It’s at an OK level. It’s kind of below average.”

Blazer said they have not seen the males rebound the way they saw the females rebound.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the blue crab’s scientific name is Callinectes sapidus.

The name translated from Latin means “beautiful savory swimmer.”

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