- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Here’s something every crab-loving Marylander and Virginian will agree on: The blueclawed Chesapeake Bay delicacies are far too expensive.

However, commercial crabbers are getting what the traffic will bear and if somebody is dumb enough to pay $180 for a bushel of steamed crabs, the watermen and the restaurateurs will keep right on charging top dollar. As long as there are folks who don’t mind forking over three and four times more for crabs than what they should cost, you can expect the business people to keep sticking it to you.

But what is really troublesome is what happened in Virginia last week. There had been a bi-state commission made up of watermen, industry members and government natural resources managers that was to come up with plans to help the diminishing crab population, but an announcement was made that the group would no longer meet because there wasn’t enough money to implement various plans.

The state of Maryland pledged and delivered $90,000 to help fund the project, but Virginia failed to come up with a similar amount two years in a row. In other words, Virginia scuttled the entire process. Way to go, Old Dominion. You should be ashamed of yourself.

But it’s not just Virginia — which has never shown a great regard for its saltwater inhabitants — but rather those who care more for the pocketbooks of a small number of commercial seafood people who must shoulder the blame. Maryland, too, must share in it. Gov. Robert Ehrlich definitely leans more toward business interests than preserving natural resources. Under his helm, crab minimum sizes were rolled back from 51/4 inches to 5 inches — a sure way to let watermen catch more and a certain way to bring the species closer to the brink of threatened status.

What needs to be done? Just as many people bit the bullet back in 1985 and declared a moratorium on the catching of striped bass (rockfish), then saw the species rebound like never before. Perhaps the same needs to be done for the blueclawed crab. I can just hear the screaming and shouting now, but something must be done before it’s too late.

More about Virginia deer limits — A big thanks goes out to Brian Patrick of the Naval Surface Weapons Center in Dahlgren, Va., who said that my recent mention of new Virginia deer limits and methods of checking in your venison wasn’t going to go into effect until the 2004-2005 hunting season.

Here’s what I had in the paper: “There’ll [be] a different game tag and process to check big game. Not only that, the regular-season bag limit for deer hunters east of the Blue Ridge Mountains will be increased from four to six, while in the counties west of the Blue Ridge the limit will be five.” The perception was that all this was going to happen this year.

Patrick wrote, “The tagging process will not take effect until the following deer season 2004-2005. Also, the deer harvest bag limit will not take effect until the 2004-05 hunting season. The bag limits of two per day and four per year [east of the Blue Ridge] and one per day and three per year [west of the Blue Ridge] are still in effect this year.”

So the new limit language and checking method will not take effect this fall but will in the autumn of 2004. Meanwhile, no vote of thanks goes to the Virginia game department official who sent us the earlier message.

Buckmasters showing on TNN — Buckmasters, the first deer hunting series on TV and the first hunting series on TNN, launched its 15th season Saturday. The series runs through Dec.28. The host is Buckmasters founder and CEO Jackie Bushman. They air at 10:30 a.m. Saturdays and repeat at the same time Sundays. If you miss an episode, you can watch it online at buckmasters.com.

The upcoming weekend will have the Buckmasters in Montana and Kansas. Buckmasters’ Mark Oliver bowhunts in the rugged mountains of Western Montana with Rich Birdsell of the Northern Rockies Outfitter. With great opportunities for elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and whitetails, this is truly a bowhunter’s dream. Later, Dan Massimillo of the Fred Bear Equipment Co. bowhunts in Kansas with Wolf River Outfitters and gets the largest buck ever taken by bow on the series.

On July 19-20, there will be a Montana and North Dakota bowhunt, followed by a deer hunt with rifles in Mexico on July26-27.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected].

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