The easy way to tell when the crabs are starting is to look for crab pot floats everytime you cross a bridge. When you see the pro crabbers out there, it's worth the effort to go. You might want to check Tidalfish.com. They have a crabbing board for the tidewater area.
The recreational season starts on April 1 the same as the commercial season. Can't say when the start going good other than to suggest that you follow advisor's advice. Look for the commericial boys out there. That is except between June 1 and Sept 15th at that time the lower bay sancturary (description included below) is closed to commercial crabbing but not recreational crabbing. There is also a deep water sancturary that covers most of the bay (but not rivers) deeper than 30 feet outside of the below that is closed to all crabbing commercial and recreational alike.
Me I wait until the middle of May and start dipping the grass beds in the areas off of Poquoson and the York River.
From code. Beginning at the point of origin of the center line of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel facility where such facility commences in the City of Norfolk, Virginia, and following the shoreline in a general easterly direction, and also extending 200' out from the mean low-water mark of such shoreline into the Chesapeake Bay, to Harrison's fishing pier, Ocean View, and thence in a general northerly direction to Thimble Shoal Lighthouse; thence running in approximately a northeasterly direction to Cape Charles Lighthouse, located on Smiths Island; and thence in approximately a southwestern direction to Cape Henry Lighthouse, and bounded by the shoreline; and thence following the shoreline in a general westerly direction back to the point of beginning. )
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