Lucky Locals Call It a Good Summer If It Includes an Afternoon of Picking Crabs
Nothing quite like the smell of bay air, a hot summer day and a bushel of the state crustacean.
Nothing says summer quite like hot steamed crabs and ice cold beverages on a hot Maryland day. Crabs are one of the central thematic icons that unify us and provide us with a sense of place that transcends geography and evokes a kaleidoscope of emotions and memories for all.
If you are lucky enough to have grown up in Annapolis you might share my childhood memories of crabbing from a neighbor’s pier while a wet dog wildly barks the day’s catch. You might recall the idyllic imagery of crabbing boats emerging from the misty drawn beneath the Thomas Point Lighthouse.
Perhaps you can appreciate the luxury of that post beachy fatigue that comes from a day in the sun, the humming of outboard engines singing from up the creek, and the smell of beer steamed blue crabs fresh from the backyard pot—picked on dad’s back porch while watch the sailboats cruise by. Yeah that’s home alright—you can smell it as you drive over the South River Bridge.
One of my favorite things to do with out-of-town guests is to pick crabs (preferably after a day of sailing—that’s right, I lay it on thick). Taking foreign friends and family to the local crabhouse is easily the best way to orient them with the local culture.
The best crabs in town remains an undisputed topic, there is just no touching Mike’s. Nestled shoreside on the South River, this authentic shore shack is unparalleled in its location, atmosphere, and hospitality. Mike’s is known for its casual style where many patrons arrive by boat, a few with wet bums. While waiting to be seated on the deck, visitors can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the South River and the shoreline beyond.
Local residents are lucky to call this spot the neighborhood bar, while tourists from far flung locals crowd the decks all summer long for a chance to pick crabs while rubbing elbows with true locals. Family-owned and frequented by locals, Mike’s Crabhouse has remained the “it spot” of the community since 1958.
Another fabulous feature of the Mike’s experience is the carry out and country store options, which allow boaters to provision while tied up at the dock. Snacks, ice, and booze are all available, and docking is free.
Those looking for a home-based crab picking experience can pick up crabs by the dozen or bushel at Mike’s in Riva or at the Annapolis Seafood Market in Edgewater.
Though most seafood establishment will happily steam your selections for you, everyone should steam a dozen or so at home…with the kids…at least once…it’s a cultural rite of passage!
This experience unraveled in my own home when a basket containing crabs tipped over and our dinner escaped into the kitchen. After a few minutes of shrieking and juvenile hilarity, my family retrieved all the clawed crustaceans and important lessons were learned. From that day on I have stayed away from the sharp end until after the crab has been cooked and seasoned.
Another great way to connect your family to the way of the bay, is to catch the crabs yourselves. This can be accomplished by setting traps, keeping baited pots at your pier, or through the ever popular chicken necking method.
Chicken necking employs bait dangled from a pier by a string and a simple dip net. Once the crabs have grasped the bait for a nibble, you gently bring them to the surface by pulling in the string and scoop the crab out of the water. If you set up your lines in an area where the crabs are biting, you can easily occupy children for hours and maybe if you are lucky, bring home dinner too.