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Last Updated: Nov 12, 2008 - 11:13:08 AM 

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Blue Crabs Are on the Decline
By Jonie Maschek
Nov 13, 2008 - 11:08:45 AM

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Recently I spoke with the King of Blue Crabs, Gus Muench, who has made a living for the past 30 or more years as a commercial crab trapper. He tells me that blue crab numbers are at an all-time low for Tampa Bay and also for the southwest coast of Florida.
Blue Crabs

This situation could have been caused by too many traps in the river. I have counted over 800 at one time. This appears to be an all-time high.

Less blue crabs could also be caused by the growth of Hillsborough County and southwest Florida. I say this because shrimp and blue crabs are detritus feeders and need the swamp water that flows down rivers to the bay.

It seems farming, mining, and portable water for people come first and the bay last. Therefore, with growth to the county and south Florida we will see a decline in swamp water, which creates a brackish Tampa Bay, so we will see less blue crabs.
With the Hillsborough River’s use of water for people, plans for a double draw on the Alafia River, with sights on Bullfrog Creek, and Manatee County eyeing the south prong of Little Manatee River for people use, how in this world will we have brackish water for blue crabs?

The FWC say blue crabs are resilient and they will come back. Muench tells me that he doesn’t see the return of the blue crab, as they are dependent on brackish bay for food.

I remember the commerical netters who lost their living because of the net-ban, but it isn’t the FWC that is banning anything about the blue crabs. Not only are they hard to find, but the traps that are out there are being robbed.

Muench says, “The people robbing traps use different boats. I have watched them in the Ruskin Bayou (Marsh Creek) area. The latest was people in a canoe with a women pulling up traps and taking the crabs. I know that they are selling blue crabs in the Ruskin area.

There was one arrest a few years back for robbing traps. Robbing crab traps is a felony crime. The thievery is great at the I-75 bridge crossing the Little Manatee. I need a name to give to FMP to prosecute these people. This is putting myself and Gary Swan out of business.

Gus Muench has a Captain license and has spent his life on the waterways, fighting for clean water, saving our habitat, mangroves, birds, and fish. You may call him at (813) 645-6578.

I wonder about mullet. Has it been overfished? Very few have been jumping in the rivers and just a few in the canals; they used to be thick in schools in all of our waterways.

In my phone calls this week: Robert Perez on Shell Point Road is opening Shell Point Landing soon. He has a website He closed his cafe and kayak rental at the end of the season.

Those asking which bait shop is for sale: It is Ruskin Bait and Tackle on south Hwy. 41 in Ruskin.

There was a call for navigational maps of Tampa Bay. All I have now, Ron, is maps of favorite fishing spots.

On the phone with an out-of-town angler who wanted to know: “Has Simmons Park added any more boat launching pads?” No, they haven’t built them yet; they have the permits and it will be soon.

“Is the Kings Point Fishing Club started up again?” To my knowledge they haven’t closed down. The last president’s name I have is Allen at 633-0440.

Congratulations to General Manager Chuck Hunt who retired from Simmons Park after years of service to his community.

Trout season has closed as of Nov. 1, so if you catch one, release him.
Talking with Paul, at Simmons Park, he tells me that the redfish are not there now for some reason; they have moved out into the bay. Trout were there, and a few snook, too.

I get calls about the Kitchen.

No, it isn’t my kitchen -- it is a small estuary on the east side of Hillsborough Bay. The water quality there is excellent; seagrass beds and shores of mangroves and small islands make for a very popular fishing spot.

It is a valuable fish nursery as it is an area of high biological diversity and productivity. It is also used as a feeding spot for thousands of birds at low tide. I have had many reports of anglers catching a variety of fish at the Kitchen.
Two islands in the Kitchen are Green Key and Whiskey Stump Key, which are bird sanctuaries, and have “no trespassing” signs the year around, put up by the Audubon Society. History ­stories say that Whiskey Stump is so named because of the moonshiners delivering whiskey there for the boats coming from Tampa to buy whiskey for the hotels and bars, with many in this area making a living with moonshine.

The area of Hillsborough Bay, near the mouth of Bullfrog Creek and the mouth of the Alafia River is a nursery site for bull shark.

King mackerel have decided to stay in our water for another week.  Mackerel are travelers and often stay a week or so on their way south.

Gag grouper catches are still on the scene putting a smile on the face of many anglers. They are making their catches at the Skyway and a few in the ship channels.

Snook are lazy this week and are not cooperating with the bait that is being tossed to them. Sheepshead are eating around the pilings of piers. If you see one, there are more as they like company. Freshwater fishing for largemouth bass has picked up as well as catfish bites.

Be friendly; be kind; and if you see someone committing a crime, make a call -- what you say will save our bay.

 -- Aleta Jonie Maschek is a ­member of Florida Outdoor Press­.

© Copyright 2008 by The Observer News Publications and M&M Printing Company, Inc.

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