On May 11th when things should have been warming, this “non spring” we are in brought temps in the high 30’s and low 40’s F, not quite enough to kill the puny grass that was sprouting in the yard but cold enough that the furnace was running all morning. I keep my home cooler than many people.
For most of my angling life, with at least 50 plus years spent to varying degrees fishing saltwater, I have kept a logbook of all my fishing and outdoor activities. Various species would show up in the places I knew and fished within the same, fairly narrow window of time every season. Being that I like variety when one species moved on or became hard to catch for some reason, I’d switch to another. When the winds were howling too hard to launch my small boat on the Sound we’d head to local lakes and ponds to fish for bass, pike and panfish.
The two major events that take place later in May or June annually are the influx of squid along the coast, with fluke and striped bass close behind and feeding heavily on that bait all the way. My early summer trips would include fluke fishing during the day, exact times dependent on the tide. If it were later in the afternoon, the fluke trip would be followed by striped bass fishing at dusk.
There could be some price to pay in the form of dinged skegs and props. Over time the exact location of dangerous rocks and hazards were learned, minimizing the surprise bumps as time and learning progressed. The larger boulders and rock humps were spots where stripers would hold to ambush bait. One thing that helped tremendously over the years was getting to know some of the best, most accomplished anglers for all the species I also fished for, through contacts made at shows, writing and simply talking with other anglers at launch areas for so many years.
As a generalist when it comes to fishing, the fact I had lots of experience with many species helped when it came to putting something into the boat. Like everyone I have my favorites, though when they are playing hard or impossible to catch, maybe because they were not where I was casting or drifting, there were almost always rigs, bait or whatever was necessary to make a quick switch to something else. The reason is I simply enjoy catching fish. If the primary target species is playing too hard to catch I am not above working down to the number four or five spot, after all the gear had been packed, run to the water, put in the boat and then bounced out to the fishing grounds. At that point, we would stick it out and keep trying or very rarely, generally, when the weather threatened too severely, we’d give up and run for home.
The point is enjoying your time on the water. I always used to joke with friends who would say, “I don’t really care if I catch anything I simply love being out on the water.” They were often the people who didn’t catch anything, most of the time. My thinking about that philosophy is if you don’t go fishing to catch fish as a primary objective, why do it, take up something else. That is kind of like a bowler saying: “I don’t care if I hit any pins down I just like rolling that big ball.”
The other thing that occurs most years around at this time, though maybe not this one due to the horrible spring weather is the appearance of blue crabs in shallow tidal areas along the coast. At this writing it was too early to tell because over the years, long cool wet springs often kill off the local blue crab population. If a major die-off did not occur, this summer and fall could possibly bring some pretty productive blue crabbing. Catching blue crabs during the summer has long been a main stay for me over the course of fifty some years and I have the scars from many bites to prove it.
The stupid thing here is I’d go out and catch a few for dinner at a couple of spots close to home, I had to do. I seldom caught more than I needed for a supper or two. They would last a couple of days if they were packed upright on their feet with a little seaweed or damp but not soaking wet cloths and stored in a cool place, I often use the vegetable crisper drawer in the fridge. (This practice has startled more than a few people who were at the house and went into the fridge to get something and had a draw full of cold, very still but bubbling crabs staring at them. Their reactions varied and were always funny.)
The trick is to pick out the damaged, soft shells and weaker looking ones to cook right away for the first meal or to keep them overnight. The stronger, nasty, ill-tempered finger clippers would stay alive and fresh for a few days, longer if they were not stressed too much when caught.
Back to the stupid thing. After carefully handling them in the field I’d go home and start prepping for supper, peeling the requisite fresh corn and of course popping a brew or two, or four. When the numbers of beers climbed so would the scars. Most often the worst bites would take place after rinsing them off in the sink and then reaching down to pick them up to drop into the boiling kettle on the stove. Blood letting time if the prep took long enough to imbibe an extra brew or two. Wasn’t going to drive anywhere and the only place I had to go after supper was to a comfortable chair in front of the TV. One trick for the waste after cooking and peeling crab or lobster is to break the shells into small pieces, place them into a couple of plastic bags, so there are no leaks and store them in a corner of the freezer until garbage pickup day. If they are put out during the heat of summer the stench can be awful and the mess becomes a fly breeding ground.
I am hoping the crabs aren’t dead in the mud after this winter and long cool spring. They are my favorite local food that I can catch myself. I have to admit I’ve never released a legal sized blue crab when the season was open and probably never will but I’ve never kept a short or one out of season either. Due to all the confusion going on in this world lately, people in general like myself are getting antsy and are not going to sit home watching repetitive news stories and old westerns on the “boob tube” very much longer. I plan to make a freshwater fishing trip to a spot not far from the coast this week if things warm up and will take a swing down to my favorite blue crab spot. If there is nothing to scoop there, we will need to wait until we get that influx of crabs from either offshore or the south, later in the summer and into the early fall.