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Catching peeler crabs a family affair for Healys

Max Healy of Gloucester and his son, Mickey, started catching peeler crabs together when Mickey was a teenager, and they’ve been peeler crabbers together for more than 50 years.

Max himself has been going even longer. Now 88, he’s been in the business for some 70 years.

On fair days during crab shedding season, which runs from April to as late as October, the two men get up early, drive down to the dock they built on a friend’s Ware River property, and load up in the 17-foot Seamark V-bottom skiff they’ve used for 30+ years. Then they head out to the peeler pots—large metal mesh traps—that they’ve set at various places in the shallow upriver region of the Ware.

At each pot, they tie off on the bamboo pole the pot is attached to, pull up the pot, empty it into the bottom of the skiff—crabs scurrying and the occasional fish flopping—and then drop the pot back into the water. They grab the crabs in their rubber-gloved hands, use measuring sticks to make sure they’re legal size, ...

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