Annapolis, MD – The first day of April brings with it the opening day of Blue Crab Season. During the month of April crabbers may catch crabs from Maryland’s rivers, creeks and tributaries from one half hour after sunrise until sunset.
According the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), from May 1 until Sept. 30 the crabbing window expands to one half-hour before sunrise until sunset. The April hours then resume Oct. 1 and continue through Dec. 15 when crab season concludes.
On the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay the starting times for crabbing are the same but crabbing activity is to end at 5 p.m. Also, DNR officials stated it is illegal to “to set or fish crabbing gear prior to or after the time restrictions. The law also requires “using properly registered crab pots on private property, dip nets or hand-lines is permitted 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
According to DNR officials, no recreational crabbing is allowed on Wednesdays except when using crab pots from private property, when using hand-lines or dip nets and during a week when a state or federal holiday falls on a Wednesday or Thursday.
There are minimum size limits for crabs caught in Maryland waterways. Male hard crabs caught from April 1 through July 14 must be at least five inches measured from tip to tip of spikes. From July 15 to Dec. 15 the minimum size increases to 5.25 inches. From April 1 through July 14 male peeler crabs must measure 3.25 inches and from July 15 through Dec. 15 each crab must measure 3.5 inches. From April 1 through Dec. 15 soft crabs must measure 3.5 inches.
The Maryland DNR reminds everyone it is illegal for recreational crabbers to sell crabs, possess an egg-bearing (sponge) crab or any female hard or peeler crab. To set or fish a trotline, collapsible trap or crab net ring within 100 feet of another individual’s set gear is also prohibited. Also illegal—fishing crab gear that belongs to another person and harvesting crabs while scuba diving.
Another reminder from DNR, A new crab trap is showing up at Maryland sport fishing retail stores under the name of CRAB ALERT. This trap is designed so that when a crab grabs the bait, a spring-loaded trap door closes automatically. Please be aware that a crab trap that automatically closes, without a manual force, is illegal to use in Maryland. Using illegal methods to catch crabs has a maximum penalty of $1,000 for the first offense. According to Maryland regulation, a collapsible crab trap is defined as a manually operated, portable device having a flat bottom not more than 20 inches by 15 inches, and not more than four articulated sides. The trap shall be designed so that failure to apply manually exerted tension on the closing mechanism allows the crabs to escape. In other words, a crab trap must allow crabs to enter and exit the trap until the user pulls the line up to retrieve the trap. This pulling of the line manually closes the sides on the trap.
For more rules on crabbing in Maryland waterways, contact the DNR. Visit their web site at http://dnr2.maryland.gov/fisheries/Pages/regulations/blue-crab.aspx