National Wildlife Refuge
Phone Number: 410-228-2692 x118
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Continued . . . For more than 300 years, Smith Island watermen have been making a living from the Bay, primarily from crabs and oysters. They began dredging oysters with skipjacks around 1850. Skipjacks are sail boats designed specifically for oyster harvesting on the Chesapeake Bay. Their no-keel design and large mainsail made them very powerful and maneuverable. At one time, some 50 skipjacks were based on the island. Residents also harvested the well-known Chesapeake Bay blue crab by sail. Harvesting by gasoline-powered boats came later and crab-potting began in about 1947.
Today, three separate communities can be found on Smith Island: Ewell, Tylerton, and Rhodes Point. Their residents continue the island tradition of harvesting oysters in the winter and crabs in the summer.
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