Potomac Crabbing

Labor Day Weekend, Crabbing on the Potomac River (Yes, the Potomac River)


Dan, Jeb and I went crabbing this morning on the fresh tidal Potomac River.  We launched from Sweden Point and motored south to Stump Neck, near the overhead power lines across the Potomac and into the mouth of Chicamuxen Creek.


It is this portion of the river near Quantico, where the fresh tidal of the north has salinity levels of less than 0.5 ppt that begins the transition to oligohaline waters of between 0.5 upwards to 6.0 ppt of salinity, dependent on tides, rainwater infusion and other factors.  By late summer and early autumn, blue crabs will migrate well up-river and into Washington, DC.

Jeb worked the front of the boat, hauling in the folding traps that were baited with chicken necks.  Dan handled the center of the boat, placing the crabs into the live well, and I was the driver.  In this photo, Jeb enjoys his first-ever cigar, a Swisher Sweet, a right of passage for fishermen.


Between working traps, we got in some fishing too, and I caught this largemouth bass off of a shipwreck (left), using a weighted June Bug colored creature bait.


The SAV beds were thick, and water stargrass, Heteranthera dubia was frequently seen in flower at the surface of the water.  Water stargrass can be found in the upper Potomac, the Susquehanna, Bush, Elk, Magothy and Sassafras rivers.  If the plant is beached, it can take on a terrestrial form, which is commonly called mud plantain, the same plant, just growing at the waters edge, on land instead of being a submerged aquatic.


We motored back to Smallwood with two dozen large males, not bad for two-hours of work.


Jeb makes the transfer from live well to the cooler, with the crabs being separated with newspaper, and then a bag of ice on top.


Local restaurants charge up to $80 for a dozen large males, and its “traditional Maryland” and edifying to catch our own, being recreational crabbers for the day.


While we were preparing to head home, this waterman unloaded 100 bushels of crabs to a refrigerated truck for Labor Day sales to local restaurants.  We asked if we could buy a bushel, and the waterman politely said that all of his catch was called-for.  Worth trying.


For dinner, the Burchick and Betz families had hard shell crabs, lump crab meat crab balls, Johnsonville Brats, roasted corn, beer and margaritas.  Great way to spend the day!

Here’s your trivia for the day:  The Latin name for Blue Crab is Callinectus sapidus, which means “beautiful swimmer” (Callinectus) and then, “savory” (sapidus), as in tasty!