ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WBOC)- Maryland watermen are scouring the Chesapeake Bay in search of ghost pots.
Ghost pots are crab traps that have been lost by watermen and continue to trap and kill crabs and fish. State officials say more than 4,000 pieces of abandoned crabbing gear have been pulled from the bay since last week when the program began.
This is the third year for the ghost pot program that is part of a federal grant that followed a disaster declaration for the bay's blue crab fishery. The grant provides aid for watermen who are hired to remove lost traps. The grant also helps ensure the sustainability of the crab population.
Waterman Kevin Tarleton and his fellow crew members on the Misty Lynn III are spending their first year collecting ghost pots. Tarleton said this is an opportunity for watermen to get back out on the bay and to make a few extra dollars.
"They made this program to help everybody out," Tarleton said.
Some watermen said that this time of the year they can actually make more money catching pots than shellfish.
"This is a time where we are not making any money, so this just fills the gap," said waterman David Crow. To watermen, ghost pots are like modern-day buried treasure: it is a way for them to stay afloat during the offseason.
"It's a way to make a living," Tarleton said. "You can't do it oystering because there aren't any to catch and crabbing don't start until April 1, so we've got to do something between [now and] then."
To catch ghost pots, watermen use grapple hooks and sweep the bay bottom.
"When we first started this program yesterday, we got a map that showed us all the places where the pots would be," Tarleton said. "You just have to drag the line around until you find something."
About 700 watermen are working at 14 sites across the bay, including the North East River, Fairlee Creek, West River, Rhode River, South River, Severn River, Magothy River, Patapsco River, Patuxent River, Upper Tangier sound, Lower Hooper Island and the Big and Little Annemessex rivers at Smith Island.
The ghost pot program continues through mid-April. Click here for more details about the program.
Editor's note: The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Saturday, May 18 2013 10:19 AM EDT2013-05-18 14:19:20 GMT
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