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Theories on the huge crabbing decline

Old 08-21-2013, 01:31 PM
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Default Theories on the huge crabbing decline

I only run 50 pots max in the Bay, trotline off and on in the rivers. I pulled my pots three weeks ago with the intention of putting them back over but crabbing in my zone is dead. My local colleagues that run large nos of pots have pulled stakes because it's just not worth the effort. Three years ago, it was not uncommon to have 20 or more crabs per pot and with the same soak time this year, maybe 3 with 1 or 2 keepers. Conversely, rockfishing has been exceptional in the same area and double-heads are around on big numbers. Those two species are putting a hurting on em but maybe there are other reasons. Things may improve mid-Sept thru Oct but that's probably just wishful thinking. When the crab rebound was declared a success, there really were good numbers. I talked to two friends on the Western Shore this morning and one river is dead and has been dead - while the other one is producing fairly well. That, however, is abnormal. What is going on?
Old 08-21-2013, 02:38 PM
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What happened was the wanna' be scientists and the politicians that believe them screwed up with their rosy forecasts. They certainly can't blame it on an extremely cold Winter, since we didn't have one.
Old 08-21-2013, 03:08 PM
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I don't have any theories, I haven't crabbed since I was a teenager, I would think predation would have something to do with it, the increase in Rockfish, Redfish, Skates, but I have been talking to people that crab around Back river and they say the crabbing is slow there to, and there isn't a lot of Rockfish, Skate or Redfish around there (yet). Has the Crab harvests increased much this summer? I remember just before Memorial day it was all over the news about how the crab population has increased. last year they claimed all the restrictions raised the population
Old 08-21-2013, 03:38 PM
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The restrictions did raise the population in a big way and then poof - gone like 59 Chevy
Old 08-21-2013, 04:01 PM
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There's not enough bait fish left to feed the masses, shut down the Manhadden fleet.
Old 08-21-2013, 04:21 PM
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O'Malley forgot to care when he started a national campaign. I mean it was just last year that he crowed his managment changes were a roaring success!

Kind of a no brainer shutting seriously limiting the female catch. Only three things can happen:
1/ Nothing changes - proving drastic measures are necessary
2/ Decline continues - proving drastic measures are necessary
3/ Population shows a significant increase-which happend in 2011 and '12 and he
takes all the credit

Now, my theory....I crab a small creek off the Choptank. There are NO little crabs, none.

Last week, there were so many cownose ray pups in that creek you could walk on them........been like that all summer. They won't F with the 7" crabs, but devastate the little guys, just like those class of 2010 stripers that are coming of age. There are millions of them out there. And redfish and on and on.

Too many predators. And maybe more menhaden would give the stripers something else to eat?

Heard about a commercial buyer of fish and crabs from Hoopers Island that charted his landings in Rock and Crabs since the 30s.....good crab years, were down striper years and reverse was true as well.

Cycles...............as much as managers think they got it figured out, they don't.
Old 08-21-2013, 04:34 PM
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Jim,
Take this only as an observation, I don't know the reason behind it. My preacher and I sailed his boat from the Severn River to Norfolk Va. At only seven knots, you get to see a lot of water for a looooooong time. When we left the Severn, boats were fishing everywhere. Bait was busting the surface, birds were working.
The bay looked like this all the way down to the Gas Docks. We even saw pelicans diving.
Once we passed Solomon's, the bay was dead. This was in early July, before the blues got into that area.
It was like traveling in a desert. Not much sign of life. No commercial watermen working crab pots and no rec's fishing in their private boats.
Greg Buckner had moved both his boats (fin finder and miss Susie II ) from Solomon's to Deale.
Quite frankly, I was a bit depressed.
We were only on the water two straight days ( not a long sail), but it was enough to have me scratching my head.
When you don't see birds in the air or bait busting the water (not even "nervous" water), it's spooky.
5th (Marty)
Old 08-21-2013, 04:50 PM
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Great observations. I also got a nice email on this from a scientist with lots of experience in the area.
Old 08-22-2013, 07:00 AM
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Originally Posted by JimRockfish View Post
Great observations. I also got a nice email on this from a scientist with lots of experience in the area.
Well, what did the scientist have to say?
Old 08-22-2013, 07:18 AM
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Crabbing has been piss poor in the lower bay too. I can barely catch keepers off my dock. Last year I could put 2 pots off the dock in the morning and have enough crabs to feed 4 or 5 people that night. This year I couldn't even feed one person.

I think the puppy drum population has to have something to do with it. They have been thick the last couple years, this year especially. Lots of the drum I've cleaned this year have had a belly full of small crabs.
Old 08-22-2013, 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by mikie View Post
Well, what did the scientist have to say?
Obviously doesn't want controversy so I will summarize: crabs are arthropods and although scientists have tried managing the populations for years, crab population management is almost impossible.

Come on guys, stop slacking - catch more fish. They are killing us.
Old 08-22-2013, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by zam View Post
and there isn't a lot of Rockfish, Skate or Redfish around there (yet).
Yes there are. Been catching plenty of 18-25" rock for the past 2 months. They seem to be here much earlier then last year.
Old 08-22-2013, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by C-Hawk18 View Post
Yes there are. Been catching plenty of 18-25" rock for the past 2 months. They seem to be here much earlier then last year.
I know theres Rock around, I've had one of my best summers ever, but they aren't so thick that they could decimate the Crab population in just the last couple months. Seems to be something else other then predation or harvesting
Old 08-22-2013, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by 5th Tuition View Post
Jim,
Take this only as an observation, I don't know the reason behind it. My preacher and I sailed his boat from the Severn River to Norfolk Va. At only seven knots, you get to see a lot of water for a looooooong time. When we left the Severn, boats were fishing everywhere. Bait was busting the surface, birds were working.
The bay looked like this all the way down to the Gas Docks. We even saw pelicans diving.
Once we passed Solomon's, the bay was dead. This was in early July, before the blues got into that area.
It was like traveling in a desert. Not much sign of life. No commercial watermen working crab pots and no rec's fishing in their private boats.
Greg Buckner had moved both his boats (fin finder and miss Susie II ) from Solomon's to Deale.
Quite frankly, I was a bit depressed.
We were only on the water two straight days ( not a long sail), but it was enough to have me scratching my head.
When you don't see birds in the air or bait busting the water (not even "nervous" water), it's spooky.
5th (Marty)
Why would that be depressing? Rockfish are migratory, they will never be everywhere all the time.
Old 08-22-2013, 02:47 PM
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Crabbing has been piss poor in the lower bay too. I can barely catch keepers off my dock. Last year I could put 2 pots off the dock in the morning and have enough crabs to feed 4 or 5 people that night. This year I couldn't even feed one person.

I think the puppy drum population has to have something to do with it. They have been thick the last couple years, this year especially. Lots of the drum I've cleaned this year have had a belly full of small crabs.
Mako: Same exact situation off the East River. Last year I could throw 2 pots off the dock on Friday night with whatever was handy for bait and we'd have a feast Sunday night. Now I gotta leave them in for nearly a week. I've been catching puppy drum off the dock with squid, too, which is strange - usually they'll only go for peelers (the rays will eat whatever I use). But it's cheaper and easier (and more fun) to use the croaker I catch for the holding pots than chicken.
Old 08-28-2013, 05:33 AM
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Last year running a trotline in the Severn it was full of little crabs. I was knocking them off the necks the whole day. My bait was destroyed almost after one run there were so many babies out there but this year ive got nothing. Make a whole run and only grab two 5 1/2" crabs. Sucks. I havent seen any in the severn and surrounding area yet but dont forget about those blue catfish... they are like vacuums they'll eat anything especially little crabs.
Old 08-28-2013, 05:40 AM
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We having the same problem down in South LA, very few small crabs. I use to buy crabs from a friend of mine who trawls shrimp for a living. I went with a few years ago and we caught 3 Champagne baskets full of crabs, weonly kept 6 dozen we just see how many we could catch....... the last time I went with him a few months ago we had 14 crabs.
Old 09-05-2013, 06:05 AM
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surely are a lot of rays which one would expect to ring the bell for bull sharks.

regarding the why I have two thoughts, neither of which are based in any sort of scientific work on my part;
-keeping females in any number makes zero sense
-overdevelopment and ag chemicals aren't doing anyone a favor.

Here in OC the bay in certain areas is absolutely LINED with pots. I mean to the point that you could not beach your boat without paying careful attention to where you're going. Seems there should be some limit to pots per acre of water.
Old 09-05-2013, 07:45 AM
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Ag chemicals? Based on what research?

Chemical use has declined precipitously in the last 2o years and due to your other point the acreage is decreasing.

Facts or just something you can point to that doesn't affect you?
Old 09-05-2013, 10:01 AM
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Ag chemicals are not the issue. No scientific link for such a claim. Plenty of assertions but no scientific link in the real world. Farm chemicals are expensive and are developed to remain in 1 place ..... ie the crops where the active ingredient does the most good.

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