CHURCH CREEK, Md.- When he's not on the water, Cody Paul is working on his crab pots or making deliveries. The Dorchester County waterman still tries to get out on the bay as much as he can, but he has to take a lot more into consideration this year than he has in the past.
"It's not as many people as it used to be out there years and years ago. I guess it's just the expense of it and not being able to catch as many has done a lot to that," Paul said.
The crabs are so scarce this summer that several boats are sitting at dock collecting dust. That's because the expense is far outweighing what the watermen are bringing in. For example, each new crab pot cost $40. And then you have to paint that crab pot two to three times a summer. Paint goes for $140 for a 5-gallon can. Then you have to put bait in those pots, which is $16 per 50 pots per day. And that's not counting in fuel or labor costs.
Paul and many other watermen believe an abundance of skate and rockfish are to blame for the second year of low crab counts.
"Rockfish is a big factor in the crab population. Something needs to be done about that -- that would help a lot," Paul said.
Paul tries to get out as many days as he can so he can put bread on the table, and said some days are better than others. The average catch for this season has been about two and a half bushels. On Monday, he brought in seven bushels. He's noticed quite a few juvenile crabs he has had to throw back as well, and thinks there could be a boom towards the end of the season if they do not die off.