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PostPosted: Thu Aug 04, 2016 7:32 am    Post subject: Search for Megalops Report #4 - Blue Crab - Tim Visel Reply with quote

Connecticut Blue Crab Populations Rebuild
The Sound School Regional Vocational Aquaculture Center
The Search for Megalops Report #4
“You do not need to be a scientist to Report”

Connecticut Blue Crab Populations Rebuild
July 1st 2016 Report #4

• Large numbers of 2 to 4 inch crabs
• Spring fishing brought huge crabs
• Sublegal size crabs – dominate catches
• Colder spring – oxygen levels remain high

The early spring reports of small blue crabs mixed in with oysters have increased along Connecticut’s shore. The best areas for small crabs appear to be centered now around the Housatonic River. This is very good news for the Western Connecticut blue crabbers following some very slow 2014 and 2015 seasons. Some reports put these crabs between 1 to 2 inches, most likely they will reach 3 to 4 inches by the fall preparing the way for a hopeful 2017 season. Multiple reports mention very large numbers small crabs 2 to 3 inch size are in large populations between the Branford River and Oyster River, Old Saybrook and have a chance to make a great fall fishing. Here the numbers of small crabs are very large – to early to estimate the run as only a few crabbers have reported in. Observations of the Indian and Oyster Rivers point to an excellent fall – as hundreds of small crabs clung to baits in the Indian and Menunketesuck on June 26th. The best crabbing continues to be in central near deep holes in the lower reaches of tidal rivers with some excellent catches early in the season (Oyster River Old Saybrook). The last two weeks of June these very large blue crabs have spread out as the first shed is occurring now.

See you at the docks.
Tim Visel

The large numbers of 2 to 4 inch size point to some excellent September and October crabbing in central Connecticut.

On June 20th the first blue crabs moved up into the Connecticut River and reached Essex a few days later. Catches have increased to 8 to 12 crabs per hour with large number of “small” crabs at higher tides. Conversations on July 1st centered on how “terrible” last year the crabbing was here in Essex (until very late in the fall) crabs have arrived very early this year – low rainfall has strengthened the salt water “wedge” (Connecticut is experiencing a dry spell) into the Essex/Deep River area. This is early for Connecticut River crabbing (Megalops #8 August 23rd, 2013) (Megalops #4 July 3rd 2013) and with 90 days or more of crabbing sea water temperatures look for crabbing to only improve.

Certain rivers are full with small crabs namely the Indian in Clinton and the Menunketesuck River in Westbrook. Crabbing has been slow in these rivers but look to the first legal crabs at the end of July – after that the crabbing should be great.

Spring fishing brought huge crabs

For those blue crabbers that went to deeper holes, with thin sapropel deposits had the best spring crabbing. The cold water had oxygen saturation levels very high – making these sticky mucks an ideal over wintering habitat. These crabs tended to be very large, the last perhaps of the great 2011, 2012 megalops sets – many over seven inches point to point. These large crabs are great eating and a times challenging to even catch, but well worth the effort. Look for these crabs to head up river as water continues to warm – if they make the molt which I believe they will – we may see many 8 inch crabs this fall.

Sublegal Size Crabs – now dominate catches

Watching some crabbers in Westbrook recently hand lines were constantly yielding three to four inch crabs in the shallows (look for the large crabs just before and after deep bends) but made good conversations about the fall. Most if not all of these three to four inch crabs will reach larger size by September if the waters remain warm. The central CT fall fishery looks to be much better this year than last. With some many of these crabs appearing now the 2013-2014 megalops sets despite the colder winters survived here.

Cooler spring oxygen levels remain high

The cooler spring has delayed some agricultural activities but cooler oxygen rich waters have been great for the fish. The fishing in general has been excellent and a mixture of cold and warm water species. It is great to hear of winter flounder in the shallows again – the recent storms have turned natures composts – and look for these cleaned marine soils to catch a Mya set (steamers) a favorite food for flounder. Blue crabs feed on soft shells also. I recall some jet clamming experiments at Cape Cod in the 1980s (Buttermilk Bay Wareham) several sub tidal areas held dense populations of soft shell clams and it seems as soon as we turned off the pump crabs and fish were upon us. The large steamers were hard to open for the green crab but not blue crabs – grabbing a large clam (and fending off mummies) these soft shell clams were no match for larger blue crab claws which quickly crushed the shells of small clams and sliced exposed meats. I am certain smaller soft shell clams were consumed by small green and blue crabs as well. (Soft clams have some many exposed areas, it is easy prey). Winter flounder often prefer clam necks (a popular bait in the 1960s) to worms but most clams today end up on a plate rather than frozen those small rectangular fold up boxes decades ago. In 2011 winter flounder fishers in Clinton Harbor (lower Hammonassett River) could not keep clam necks on hooks long and I watched several blue crabs “reeled in” refusing to let go! (Megalops Reports August 15, 2011 – Report #13) Small soft shell clams make great food for growing blue crabs – part of an important food web and “estuarine health” in tidal areas. Soft shells and small blue crabs often occupy the same habitats.

With reports of small blue crab populations increasing blue crabbing should now only improve.

All blue crab reports are important – I appreciate all comments and responds to emails at tim.visel@nhboe.net

Tim Visel
The Sound School
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