Crabbing with kids in the Chesapeake Bay nets bushels of fun

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The how-to's and laws of crabbing

To catch a crab, all you need to do is drop the line into the water and raise it every few minutes or when you feel a tug on it. Then scoop up any crabs with the net. A baited basket can also be dropped off a boat or pier. Crabbing can't be done easily from the shore because the crab will fall off the line when the line is pulled sideways, according to Bay native George Klein.

Hard-shell keepers will have a "rusty" or dirty looking bottom, according to Judy Colbert, Crofton resident and author of the cookbook "Chesapeake Bay Crabs." Crabs with clean, shiny undersides have recently molted and haven't grown into their new shell, she advises. They may look big on the outside, but the amount of meat will be disappointing.

According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, recreational crabbers do not need a license to crab with hand lines and dip nets. Property owners may set two crab pots per privately owned pier on their property. The limit is two-dozen hard crabs or 12 soft crabs per person per day.

A license is required for crabbing with trotlines, crab traps (baskets) or eel pots. Crab season runs April 1 to Dec. 15 and size restrictions apply. It is illegal to harvest female crabs according to the DNR's website. See www.dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/regulations/regindex.asp?page=bluecrab for details on size restrictions.

Once a crab is caught, quickly transfer it to a bucket with a lid. Once you are done crabbing, you can cover the crabs with a damp cloth to keep them from climbing out when you open the bucket.

Feibel taught her boys early how to hold crabs from behind. She also makes sure they wear life jackets and sun block on the boat. Frequent hand washing is also important when crabbing with children, she says.

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