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On the Water: No Need to Be Crabby

Thu, 08/03/2023 - 12:17
Blue-claw crabs have been running about in great quantities in local creeks, estuaries, and harbors this summer.
Jon M. Diat

At some point, we all succumb to being a little crabby, whether it's in the deepest depths of winter or during the blazing hot days of summer. We all have our good and bad days.

If you want proof, just ask my wife. She has witnessed the occasional crabbier side of this faithful fish chronicler in our 30 years of wedded bliss. Sometimes my pincher claws are extended, but they usually retract rather quickly after I chill down a bit. 

I can only imagine what it would be like to be a blue-claw crab. For those unfamiliar with the mannerisms of the popular crustacean, they have a wicked-bad demeanor when confronted. 

Blessed with keen eyesight and lightning-fast reflexes, they require care in handling. I've lost count of how many times my fingers have been bloodied and even scarred over the years. You have been duly warned.

While on the subject of crabs, I need to remark on the plethora of blue-claw crabs that have been scurrying about this summer in our creeks, coves, and harbors. By all accounts, it's been a banner season thus far. Many folks are happy; few have been crabby.

"It's been a great season thus far," said Harvey Bennett, the former longtime owner of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett. "They are large and plentiful. More people need to take advantage of it. Blue-claws are the best to eat." 

Bennett is certainly correct, and since I'm not trapping lobsters this season, I too have enjoyed the bounty. 

All I've needed to secure my catch is to drop two baited traps (cheaply priced chicken thighs or legs work just fine as bait, by the way), where I berth my Rock Water in Sag Harbor Cove. Crab cakes and other various preparations have been a frequent occurrence for dinner. 

I do not tire of fresh crab meat. Just the other day, I steamed up a dozen large crabs and ended up with well over a pound of sweet meat. I've already vacuum-sealed several packages for the freezer for some much anticipated midwinter meals.

More crabs will be harvested over the next few months before they begin to hibernate deep in the sand and mud later this fall. For now, I plan to enjoy every moment while they are here. 

As for the local fishing scene, fluke fishing has perked up in many locations.

"The fluke bite out of Shinnecock, both in the bay and ocean, has really exploded," said Ken Morse at Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor. "It's also strong out at Montauk at the windmills southeast of Block Island and south of Montauk, where some very large fluke have recently been landed."

To wit, on Saturday Capt. Hugh Chancey of Chancey Charters out of Montauk put one of his fares into a flattie that weighed a shade under 15 pounds. It was the largest fluke ever landed on Chancey's boat. Several fluke over 10 pounds have also been weighed on the scale in recent days.

"There are a lot of shorts in the mix, but it's nice to see some good quantities of larger fish showing up," added Morse. Elsewhere, he said that porgy fishing in the bays has been good with some large fish still around. "And the yellowfin and bluefin tuna fishing 12 to 14 miles south of Montauk and Block Island has been very good too."

Giant bluefin tuna too are also patrolling about in local waters. On Saturday, Capt. Jack Passie of the Montauk charter boat Windy landed and released a bluefin that was around 500 pounds. 

On a much smaller scale, on Sunday morning, I took my wife's brother and his family from Boston on the Rock Water for a quick trip to Jessup's Neck for bluefish. Despite heavy boat traffic, all six aboard landed a bluefish. The fish were not behemoths, with the largest weighing about 20 ounces. Still, all returned to the dock with broad smiles.

Farther to the east, Sebastian Gorgone of Mrs. Sam's Bait and Tackle in East Hampton confirmed that the local fluke bite has improved. "In addition, porgies and blowfish are running well, and weakfish have been taken off of Gerard Drive and at the entrance of Accabonac Harbor," he said. "And a few kingfish are also being caught too."

Gorgone added that striped bass can be had along the ocean beaches, as well as in Three Mile Harbor. "And don't forget the blue-claw crabs!" he smiled. "They are crawling around pretty much everywhere."

Fishing tips, observations, and photographs can be sent to [email protected].

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