We had breakfast this morning at our local favorite, Courtney’s Restaurant, and spoke with both Tom Courtney and his younger crabbing/fishing partner. Here is what they shared with us today:
- The bigger crabs are still out in the deeper regions of the Bay. Tom and his partner are finding so few large crabs to keep and sell that they’re still relying upon fishing presently to bring in the money. Crabs large enough to bring to market are selling for $110 per bushel right now (triple that at the seafood markets in Annapolis and Baltimore and up to $90 per dozen in some of the pricier restaurants), but that will plummet once the bigger crabs begin to hit the market in earnest.
- The crabs that they are bringing up fairly close by are white, meaning that they have no meat to them yet. And they’re also bringing up peelers that are quite small, so they can’t bring them in to sell as soft-shell crabs.
- Tom said there is evidence of a dead zone heading down the Bay and that the crabs in their fishing traps are all clinging to the upper parts of the nets for air.
- Tom also mentioned that he found a dead snakehead in one of his fishing traps, about 8 pounds in size, but obviously dead for a day or so. He said it was too far gone for him to check the stomach to see what it had been eating, but he was concerned about seeing one in such brackish water.
- Tom went on to talk about how Hurricane Agnes of 1972 devastated the eel grasses of the lower Chesapeake and that they had struggled for decades afterward for the crabs to recover. He said he was concerned that the same thing may have happened last year with the double whammy of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, and that he may be feeling the impact of those two storms for the remainder of his life.
We always learn something new when we talk to these guys and really appreciate them sharing their insights.