Making Me Crabby

Busted for selling crabs without a license. Might sound silly, but crabbing is a serious business on the Maryland shore, and I take my crab-eating seriously as well, so I say throw the book at ’em. But the arrests got me thinking, and poking around the internets, and I’m amazed at the sheer volume of crab statutes and regulations that exist.
I don’t think I can link directly to the Maryland Natural Resources Code (it is online), but Title 4 (Fish and Fisheries), Subtitle 8 (Crabs) goes on for sixteen sections (some have been repealed) of prohibitions, rules, limitations, seasons. § 4-815 says simply “In St. Mary’s County, a person may not harvest crabs with a bank trap or a channel pound after October 1, 2000.” And thank goodness for that.

That’s just the statutes. The blue crab regulations go into much more amazing specificity, like how licensed crabbers may remove crabs from trotlines (as opposed to scrapes, pots, traps, channel pounds, net rings, handlines, dip nets or pound nets) “Between sunrise and 10 hours after sunrise during April, October, November, and December” ( These historical tables of blue crab laws (as opposed to Blue Laws, about which see Maryland Business Regulation Code Title 18) are also cool. For some reason this stuff fascinates me, and makes me hungry.

Dungeness Crab

A fine Dungeness specimen

But I’m hungry for Dungeness, not blue, which are too much trouble. Washington State’s crab rules are even more voluminous than Maryland’s, and more fun too — there’s even a quiz! Costco usually carries Dungeness, and the only way to stop thinking about them is to go buy and eat some.  There are worse ways to spend the coming weekend (like, sitting in jail, trying to explain to your large, skeptically-mean-tempered cell-mate exactly of which crab-selling statutes you allegedly fished afoul).

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