It’s a perfect day for seafood! And, Governor Larry Hogan thinks so, too. He recently designated Saturdays in September as “Buy Maryland Seafood Days” to encourage all Marylanders to support the state’s iconic seafood industry — perfect timing for late summer crab feasts and early fall barbecues.
“This is a great initiative, and I love it!” says waterman Rachel Dean. “This helps to highlight the seafood that Maryland has to offer. It puts pride in our state and it’s a nice shot in the arm for seafood harvesters.”
A first generation waterman, Rachel was lured into the industry as a teenager to work on a charter boat. She continues to be part of this valued Maryland industry that has an economic impact of $355 million and supports more than 3,000 jobs across Maryland.
Rachel and her husband Simon, along with Rachel’s brother Jason Williams and mother Elaine Williams, operate the family-owned Patuxent River Seafood and Solomon’s Island Heritage Tours in Lusby. With their fleet of four boats, they harvest shellfish, like blue crabs and oysters, and fish, like striped bass (commonly known as rockfish), perch and croaker. Their seafood is sold to various local restaurants and markets.
“Consumers can also look for local seafood at some roadside stands and farmer’s markets,” Rachel says. “It’s tough, though, for watermen to commit to a certain product because you can’t promise you’ll have crabs on Saturday if you’re not sure what you’ll catch on Friday. I think that’s the hardest thing for people to understand.”
Although watermen can’t guarantee their daily catch, seafoods do have seasonal availability, just like corn and watermelon. For example, Blue crab, one of Maryland’s most notable seafoods, is usually available from April through mid-December. Oysters, another state favorite, are harvested generally between October through March. So you’ll have to wait until later in the fall for those.
Rachel doesn’t claim that this is easy work. During the school year, she’s also a high school teacher. She’s up in the early morning before school to put in a few hours on the boat, then again afterward. During the summers, she’s all in.
“The biggest draw to being a waterman is that the harder you work, the more money you make. You reap the benefits of your hard work,” Rachel says. “And the best part is that I get to see the sunrise and sunset, and, if I need to smile, I just get on a boat.”
In addition to local restaurants and markets, check out this interactive map to find Maryland seafood products near you. And, get inspiration from these recipes and prepare for a feast highlighting local seafood that is not only fresh and delicious, but supports Maryland’s seafood industry — and even your neighbors.