And wouldn’t you know it: green crabs, the prime bait for blackfish, are in critical short supply for what could be the weekend, unless wholesale bait distributors can work nothing short of a miracle and get the nippers to the tackle shops by this evening or tomorrow morning.

Jeff at Hands Too Bait & Tackle in Cape May counted himself lucky this morning as he still had a half-bushel of greenies available, and he was waiting on a hoped-for delivery sometime in the afternoon. It’s pretty much the same up and down the southern coast from Waretown to the Cape: either enough crabs to scratch by this afternoon, or none in the cooler...and counting on that box truck to roll for a Hail Mary bait delivery. The one emporium with a good supply is One Stop Bait & Tackle in Atlantic City. How long this will last is anyone’s guess as the word is rapidly getting out about the shortage and the corner store on Atlantic Avenue was crowded.

The “why” of the problem remains a puzzle. As recently as last weekend green crabs were in decent supply.

The timing could not be worse, as this past week, when conditions allowed, witnessed a significant spike in the tog bite, not only from boats but along the jetties and inlet rocks as well. Figure these next three weeks as prime time to put luscious fillets in the freezer, as this portion of the season, with a four fish limit, closes April 30. When it re-opens August 1, the limit will be one tog until November 16.

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Hopefully, this will be much ado about nothing. A “whew” moment so familiar to bait and tackle dealers. If not, there are alternatives that will put tog in the bucket. Fresh clam, followed by, in a pinch, salted clam. Both are in good supply, but again, with the crab shortage, more than a few shops are selling to the first who either show, or call and pay over the phone. As Hornsby sang, “That’s the way it is”.

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