A quarter of an inch.
You wouldn't think increasing the minimum size of the crabs subject to be caught by such a small measure would make that much difference, but the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is counting on it to balance the crab population in the Chesapeake Bay.
"The legal size Blue Crab to be taken in is 5 and a quarter inches for a male crab. Soft crabs and peelers are 3 and a half inches,” said Police Col. George F. Johnson IV. “Catch limits we'll also be watching. Unlicensed crabbers are able to catch up to two dozen crabs, recreational license, you can keep up to one bushel."
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DNR officials checked 1,500 different sites in The Bay and discovered while there are an estimated 69 million spawning-age female crabs, that's about a million short of what's considered a safe number to insure a good harvest in the future.
It appears a lower number of young crabs entering the bay last year, along with that dreaded Polar Vortex, which made for a long winter, are the culprits.
"Adult crabs are very susceptible to over-winter mortality to winter kill, and we estimate in the Maryland part of the Chesapeake Bay last year, we lost between 20 and 30 percent of our adult crabs," said DNR Fisheries Deputy Director Lynn Fegley.
While the harvests have held steady this year and no one is blaming the crabbers for taking too many, they will be the targets of a crackdown on crabbing violations dubbed "Don't Get Pinched", as Natural Resources Police step up aggressive enforcement efforts to protect the crab population with fines that can range up to $500.