- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Andy Duley, a local recreational crabber, made sense when he questioned the wisdom of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ rules concerning the generous allotment of female crabs it gives to commercial crabbers.

While recreational crabbers cannot go after female blueclaws, the commercial sector is permitted to harvest more than a few of the very crabs that can guarantee the survival of future generations of Chesapeake Bay crabs.

“This year, recreational crabbers can’t keep females,” Duley wrote. “We can only get one bushel of male crabs, possibly two if another licensed sport crabber is in the boat. Anyhow, I’ve never met a recreational crabber who wanted any female crabs.

“This past weekend I pulled my skiff alongside a commercial crabber’s [boat], and I asked how he was doing,” Duley said - and the waterman was doing fine. “He had 10 bushels of females and two bushels of males, and he informed me that he should be able to get at least 20 bushels of females and at $30 per bushel [wholesale] he could make $600.”

What Duley is upset about is not that he can’t keep female crabs but that the commercial guys can pretty much catch all they want. Incidentally, more than 6,000 commercial crab licenses have been sold in Maryland.

Duley asked, “How is that supposed to help the crab population?”

He compared Maryland’s odd crab rules with a local health department inspector who came to his home to check his septic drain fields. The inspector wanted to make sure that all was OK and - if not - see whether there was a chance several gallons of water from the septic fields might run into the water.

“My drain fields are thousands of feet from any water, and they weren’t talking about raw sewage,” he said.

The health department patrol worried about Duley, but he wonders why more concern is not shown about the District’s Blue Plains waste treatment facility, to mention one.

“Every time it rains [heavily], thousands of gallons of raw sewage are dumped into the Potomac,” he said.

That scenario occurs in practically every waste treatment plant in these parts. The Port Tobacco River in Charles County, for example, is the recipient of unchecked waste discharges from the town of La Plata, I’ve been told. One thing is certain: The bottom has fallen out of the fishing in that river. Similar questions have arisen about the Mattawoman Creek, a major Potomac tributary.

Public comment on sea trout - The Atlantic Coast states from New York to Florida have scheduled hearings to gather public comment on Draft Addendum IV to Amendment 4 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Weakfish (gray sea trout). But not all the public meetings are user-friendly because interested parties just then might be driving home from work. For example, the Maryland DNR has its get-together at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 13 at the Tawes State Office Building in Annapolis. For questions, call Jim Uphoff at 410/642-6785, extension 2106.

How badly do you want a deer? - In Dorchester County, Md., the fields and woods must be a hotbed of illegal hunting activities because the state’s Natural Resources Police recently conducted a nighttime aerial enforcement detail looking for scofflaw hunters. Even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service got into the act.

On Sept. 21, officers observed a vehicle repeatedly shining its headlights onto fields in the Greenbrier Road area of Dorchester County. Subsequently, the vehicle was stopped. It was occupied by Cambridge residents John Frederick Luthy, 36, and Curtis James Windsor, 27. The two were found to have a loaded, silencer-equipped .308-caliber rifle.

Luthy and Windsor were charged with hunting deer at night, having a loaded weapon in a vehicle and casting the rays of light from a vehicle onto fields and woodland with a weapon in possession. Just for casting a light you can receive a license suspension for two to five years and may have to forfeit the weapons and devices used in the offense.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/sports.

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