How Cool Weather And COVID-19 Have Impacted Crab Season

  • St Mary's County,Calvert County,Anne Arundel County
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ST. LEONARD, Md. — Maryland crab season runs from April 1 to Dec. 15, but this year’s harvest has already been impacted by a number of factors.

For starters, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources(DNR) 2020 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey showed Maryland’s crab population dropped a total of 189 million from last year. The survey estimated 405 million crabs total, including 141 million females, and 185 million juveniles. This is down from last year's abundant 594 million crab total, which included 190 million females.

Will Kreamer, the owner of Chesapeake’s Bounty, a primarily produce and seafood market with locations in St. Leonard and North Beach, says that although the crabbing season was good for his suppliers in late winter to early spring, a cold snap in spring hampered harvest numbers.

“When crab season opened on April 1, we caught very good numbers of crabs right away. Then, some unexpectedly cold and windy weather hit us mid-April and did not let up until late May,” Kreamer explained. “This made crabbing very difficult and the crabs seemed to disappear. When the weather let up and water temperatures became conducive to crabbing, the crabbers found the small crabs were way up in the creeks about as far as a boat can travel.”

Cool-weather wasn’t the only factor changing the crab market. After social-distancing restrictions were enacted in March following the outbreak of COVID-19, a number of seafood businesses were affected.

Jill Buck, the owner of the Patuxent Seafood Company in Broomes Island since 2010, says that her family’s business had been slowed from April through May.

“We had to shut down for two months due to the virus,” Buck explained, citing concerns to keep her family safe from catching the coronavirus. She said they lost all income from their seafood business from March 16 until their reopening on June 5.

Kreamer, however, experienced a different side of COVID-19’s changes. He noted crab sales have doubled as a result of the pandemic.

“When the pandemic hit, many people came to our stores looking for a safe environment and good local food. Overall sales doubled, including crab sales,” Kreamer said. “We have been able to pay the watermen the record high prices that they needed to keep working during the crab shortage of mid-April to late-May.”

He also noted that COVID-19 has brought more awareness about locally and sustainably grown produce, bringing the community together at Chesapeake’s Bounty.

But he is hoping the uncommon spring harvest should even out by the end of the year.

“Two weeks ago our total harvest was about 200 bushels. This past week it more than tripled to 700 bushels,” Kreamer said. “We expect this trend to continue until the currently unknown summer weather pattern settles in. Most are predicting a hot, humid, dry summer with high salinity levels and water temperatures. The crabs seem to sense this as they are migrating up the tributaries and bay at rapid speed. Our crabbers are preparing the special gear it takes to go crabbing in the freshwater of the Upper Potomac, Upper Patuxent, and Upper Bay. If this happens, we expect below-average summer harvests and above-average fall harvests when the crabs migrate south again in droves.”

Looking to the future of the 2020 crab season, Buck told she is “hoping it will be good.”

“The crabs are coming up and prices are still high,” Buck said. “ [It] looks promising from the last two weeks, we had to open up on Monday and it’s extremely busy right now.”

Contact Michaila Shahan at

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