Currently viewing the tag: "crabs"

by Buck Reed

Summer is for Softshells

The heat and sunshine of summer are here, and in other regions of the world, that might mean a lot of different foods. But here in Maryland, summers aren’t summer without crabs. And we know all different ways to enjoy these local “beautiful swimmers.” Crab cakes, crab dip, crab soup, and even big bushels of steamed crabs are always following the namesake of “Maryland,” because of the blue crab of the Chesapeake Bay. For me, summer doesn’t really start until I have had my first soft shell crab.

Soft shell season traditionally starts with the first full moon in May and shuts down in September, so there is plenty of time. During this time is when they are marketed live and fresh, which is the best time to enjoy them. You can find them frozen in January, but I choose to wait. This is when the crabs are molting their hard shells and sporting a new softer one that stays soft once they are pulled from the water. And some people say there is no God!

If you are purchasing and preparing them yourself, they are easy enough to clean yourself or ask the person behind the counter to do it for you. Just make sure they are alive when you do.

As far as cooking, it is difficult to mess them up. Just do not overcook them. One important trick is to poke a few holes in the legs and claws to allow moisture to escape during cooking otherwise they can be dangerous.

But this might be one of those occasions where you might want to stick to ordering when you are out. But you only have about six weeks to find a place that does soft shells well. So, get started!

Something Fishy’s Going on Here

by James Rada, Jr.

Marylanders are known for their love of crabs, but they also love fish. In May 1917, W. H. Killian of the Maryland State Conservation Commission “made the startling statement that more fish were destroyed than consumed for food,” according to the Hagerstown Morning Herald.

To fight this growing shortage, the Maryland legislature allocated funds to establish a fish hatchery in the state, where bass, trout, and perch could be raised. Members of the Maryland Conservation Commission began touring possible locations around the state to pick the optimum location. At the time, the state was importing live fish from Iowa and New Hampshire. This was costly, so having a hatchery would also produce savings to offset some hatchery costs.

Killian and Commission Chairman W. Thomas Kemp visited Frederick County in May. They spoke to members of the Frederick County Game and Fish Association during a luncheon. Association members also showed Killian and Kemp direction locations in the county where there were streams, rivers, and ponds.

Killian told the group, “What Maryland needs and must have is a general fish law which will protect this industry which, if properly conserved, would add untold quantities of food.”

The commission tested the waters around Frederick County. The members looked at the temperature and flow of Fishing Creek, the Monocacy River, Hunting Creek, and the spring at Fountain Rock across three visits in the county that ended in September.

J. T. Snyder, a fish culturist with the federal government, helped make the final decision.               

“I have been in the service of the government for years, and in all my investigation of the waters for the location of hatcheries, the place selected in Maryland near Lewistown is not equaled anywhere,” he said.

The state leased 15 ponds on Fishing Creek and Hell Run from C. J. Ramsburg. Seven acres of the ponds would be stocked with brood bass. The Lake View pond would be used to winter the brood bass, and two of the ponds would be used for bait fish.

“It will save fishermen from paying high prices that have been charged by the sellers of bait fish and will also save the small streams from becoming depleted of their stock,” the Frederick News reported.

Plans were also made to divert Fishing Creek across land David Devilbiss owned. A 40-foot by 60-foot building would be constructed on land Milton Ramsburg owned on Hell Run. The artificial hatchery was planned for the building.

Snyder envisioned the hatchery being able to produce 50,000 fish a year, which meant that the state would not only be able to supply its own needs, but it would be able to export fish to states that needed them. This would further reduce the costs of running the hatchery for the State of Maryland.

Construction on the hatchery began in late October with plans to raise trout, bass, catfish, crappie, bluegills, and bream. It was somewhat of a new venture for the state because the conservation commission was unfamiliar with raising crappie, bluegills, and bream. The bluegills and bream were fed beef liver while the bass and catfish were fed trout.

“They are to be distributed into fresh-water streams, and as each of these species are fish that readily take the hook and line, it will mean not only furnishing many pounds of food to the country generally, but will furnish devotees of the angling sport an unusual opportunity to ply their art,” according to the Frederick News.

The following February, with the hatchery in operation, it was announced that 200,000 trout had been hatched, and another 100,000 eggs had been sent to the hatchery.

By the summer of 1918, the hatchery was releasing black bass, bluegills, crappie, Mississippi catfish, and white catfish into Maryland’s streams. Pond owners could also get stock for their ponds for a small charge that covered the production costs.

The old Lakeview Pond, which was used by the state fish hatchery when it opened in Frederick County.