Flying Fish

Exploring Maryland’s Working Waterfronts
by Nicole Carlozo -- September 24th, 2014

I met the end of Maryland’s hot summer weather with a smile and journey to the eastern shore.

I’m currently working as a Seasonal Employee for MD DNR. Although temporary in nature, the position does have it’s perks. Last week I visited Deal Island to network and make connections for a Working Waterfronts Program that Maryland is trying to get off the ground. Our enthusiastic group immersed ourselves in history, culture, and local views for 2 days and came back awed with everything that we saw and learned.

1. We gained firsthand experience with soft shell crabbing through a Watermen’s Heritage Tour, courtesy of Walters Seafood. Butch and Macy Walters developed the tour after participation in a Watermen’s Heritage Tourism Training Program.  We pulled up their crab pots, visited their shedding tanks, sorted the product, and cleaned/packaged the fruits of our labor. We may have tasted a few, too…

2. We learned about boat building and the historic significance of the Skipjack for Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. I also developed a healthy respect for the massive, wooden boats.

3. We visited the not-yet-opened Skipjack Museum and Heritage Center thanks to the owner of a local Bed and Breakfast. Our presence in the historic building did cause a few locals to turn up unexpectedly, demonstrating the community’s interest and excitement over the future museum. Every time I turned around, someone new was popping their head through the doorway trying to get a sneak peek!

4. I was reminded why I do the work that I do.

1 Soft Crabs

On September 17 -18th, planners from Maryland DNR visited Deal Island to experience the culture and history of Maryland's eastern shore. We heard stories from local watermen, business owners and residents, as well as the Coastal Heritage Alliance. Along the way, we also ate some crabs!

2 Working Waterfront

We spent our time making connections and networking for the state's new Working Waterfronts Initiative, which will help preserve existing and historic working waterfronts. While these waterfronts have a direct connection with commercial fishing, they are also intrinsically linked to the history and culture of each community.

3 Walters

We crabbed away the afternoon with Butch and Macy Walters of Walters Seafood. They kindly took us aboard and showed us the ins and outs of catching soft crabs, or "peelers." This couple has earned a living on the water for over 30 years.

Fun on the Boat

Macy handed out a few crabs as we caught them, and we had a little fun with this one. No claws, see?

4 Crab Pots

We each tried our hand with the crab pots. Here I'm fighting with one lone crab who didn't want to leave his refuge.

5 Shedding Tanks

Macy explains the crab molting process as we try to identify the soft crabs in each tank. We were lucky enough to witness one crab molting from start to finish. While Butch spends his time on the boat, Macy keeps an eye on the tanks - fishing out the newly molted crabs for packaging and shipment to New York. There doesn't seem to be a moment's rest.

6 Crab Sizes

After collecting, we sized the crabs from largest to smallest. Whale > Jumbo > Prime > Hotel >Medium

8 Fried

After sizing and packaging, we were lucky enough to try some fried soft shell crabs, fresh out of the tanks! Yes, I am from Maryland. No, I had never tried one of these delicacies before.


From left to right: Li Lan Carson, Kim Hernandez, Macy Walters (our guide), Kelly Collins, Nicole Carlozo, Kate Skaggs. This photo is filled with past/present NOAA Fellows and Duke Alumni. Do you know who?

9 Skipjack Kathryn

After eating our fill, we headed across the boatyard to take a look at the 1901 Skipjack Kathryn, which is being restored by the Coastal Heritage Alliance. CHA's Associate Director, Mark Wiest, walked us through the restoration process and even let us climb aboard! These boats were historically used to dredge oysters in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. At one time, 1,000 skipjacks could be found on the Bay. About 25 exist today, with only a handful that are still used during oyster season.

10 Old Hotel Site

Deal Island's Working Waterfront was once a booming industry. This site originally housed a hotel and Steamboat wharf that ran a quarter mile into the waterway until it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1933.

11 Deal Island Bridge

A view of the Deal Island Bridge, which has been rebuilt over the years due to storm damage. We sadly said goodbye to our 2-day refuge from the office as we headed home to Annapolis.

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