A life on the water

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Mar 20, 2013 - 02:20 PM

Photo: Mathews waterman Kerry Hall, left, has his crab pots ready to go on the public dock on Davis Creek but says the water needs to get warmer before he can set them. Carlton Haywood, shown with his rat terrier, Binky, has crab pots ready, too. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Mathews waterman Kerry Hall, left, has his crab pots ready to go on the public dock on Davis Creek but says the water needs to get warmer before he can set them. Carlton Haywood, shown with his rat terrier, Binky, has crab pots ready, too. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Crab pot season opened on Saturday, but Mathews waterman Kerry Hall’s crab pots were just sitting on the dock on Davis Creek Tuesday morning, waiting for the water to warm up.

Hall said it was warm enough last year to have started crabbing on March 1, but "this year, it’s more like it used to be." And he knows whereof he speaks. Hall started crabbing 50 years ago, when he was just 12 years old. He had 25 crab pots in Horn Harbor, and he worked them with a little flat-bottomed skiff during the summer when he was out of school.

"I had my own spending money," he said, then laughed and added, "that’s more than I get now."

Hall said he remembers the days when a crabber could catch all he wanted.

"I’ve seen ’em catch as high as 60 barrels a day," he said. "I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. It doesn’t help the price at all—supply and demand."

A change in crabbing regulations this year has cut Hall’s catch limit to 45 bushels a day rather than the 51 bushels daily that all crabbers had been allowed for a number of years. With the change, a crabber’s catch limit is based on the number of pots he or she is licensed to set. For instance, a crabber with an 85-crab-pot license can harvest only 27 bushels a day, while one with a 425-crab-pot license can harvest up to 55 bushels a day. Hall’s license is for 255 crab pots, so he’s allowed 45 bushels.