Mill Pond Crabbing Lights Up Nights

People living at Old Mill have a lot to like.

They’re surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature: a small, fun beach. Funky Compo Cove. The magnificent Sherwood Mill Pond.

There’s always something to see, smell and hear, 24/7/365.

For a couple of years though, there’s something they haven’t liked.

Starting at dusk, and continuing well past 11 p.m. — sometimes as late as 2 a.m. — up to 2 dozen people have taken over the pond and the sluice that feeds it.

Men, women and children at the Sherwood Mill Pond, late night.

They hunt for crabs. To help see in the dark, they wear LED head lamps.

When they turn toward the nearby homes, their lights shine into bedrooms.

“It’s like a car headlight flashing into the house,” says Matt Murray.

LED lights from crabbers shine in nearby residents’ bedrooms. Hummock Island is in the distance.

This year, he says, crabbing began in June. Based on past years, it will continue into October.

He’s not the only concerned resident. Jann Colabella initially contacted “06880” about the ongoing activity.

In addition to the invasiveness of the LED lamps, Murray worries about over-fishing.

He notes that the crabbing is legal. The only restrictions are on size (taking small crabs are prohibited). Permits are not required.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and Bureau of Aquaculture, oversee the activity.

“They always say to call. But at 11 p.m., I don’t see reps from those agencies running down here,” Murray says.

Crabbing at the Mill Pond in 2022 …

He adds that in that past, Westport’s Police Department Marine Division have set up inspections. “It appears the crabbers have limited IDs and documents,” he says.

Murray notes one solution: changing the parking regulations at Old Mill to 11 p.m. That would allow police to ticket vehicles without a Westport beach sticker. (Many of the cars have New York license plates.)

Currently, they’re required from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. only.

Meanwhile, the crabbing continues.

And all along Old Mill, LED head lamps continue to shine in bedroom windows.

… and 2020. (Photos/Matt Murray)

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20 responses to “Mill Pond Crabbing Lights Up Nights

  1. Bright lights at night are so annoying. I have neighbors who insist on having theirs on all night, so I surely sympathize with the folks at Old Mill. Blackout shades/drapes really help.

  2. When I was a kid all it took to snag a blue crab was a busted mussel tied to a string, lowered into the jetty rocks at the Old Mill race. Never ate one, we always threw them back. And when we’d fall into the water as the tide was going out, we’d keep our legs and arms and whatnot close, away from from those grabby guys.

    • Is it the same people each time? Has anyone tried to have a conversation with them? What’s calling enforcement going to do if they aren’t doing anything illegal?

  3. I ask that our Police Department, our First Selecwoman and our Parks & Recreation Director issue a statement on this matter AND include all the possible steps that can be taken, as well as those taken and implemented to stop this late night, illuminated crabbing. Parking rule changes should be implemented and any violations of our rules or policies as to intrusive lighting limitations should be enforced.

  4. Craig Clark (Teaze)

    I grew up on the Mill Pond and spent many years crabbing there. By 1974 the crab population had declined precipitously due to over fishing, taking females and undersized crabs. So much sand has come in to the Mill Pond that is is far shallower than it was in the 50 and 60’s. I would think the “Game Police” would be interested ensuring legal crabs were taken.

  5. Andrew Colabella

    Fines even arrests have been made in the past. It’s harmful to the environment but also to those who eat them. In fact, an individual who was arrested for stealing from the pond, the farm area, was selling it to restaurants. Some keep them for themselves and cook them. The water quality is not suitable given muddy Brook and run off from the highway deposits into the pond.

    When it’s a low tide after 7pm, you can guarantee they will be down there. They come from Massachusites, New York & New Jersey. It is directly related to the decreased population of aquatic marine life, including the plunder of oysters and clams from the Aquatic farm.

    Westport Police is committed to the parking situation as a means of enforcement, however, I personally feel further policy would have to be implemented to eradicate this detrimental and adverse behavior.

  6. I agree with the parking limitation at Mill Pond providing, that at the same time Westport bans motorcycles on the Post Road after 10PM and those low flying helicopters that disturb my afternoon naps.

  7. I’ve seen some people doing same things at Saugatuck Shores for years. That’s life.

  8. The Crabbers at Old Mill Beach take all size craps, big and small, females, turtles and razor claims too. Just look in their buckets. It is really a shame to see people having no respect for the species and the environment. Its also very difficult to talk to these people about size limits as most don’t speak english…
    Some kind of enforcement is now necessary weather its parking or the DEP…

  9. Laws are as good as their enforcement. Posting a more restrictive parking time window – and then ticketing violators – would be the easiest and most straightforward to enact. Not always done during the daytime with parkers not having Westport town stickers as it is so that idea may already be a stretch. No way a wildlife person is going to police catch size in the middle of the night. As for the lights in the bedroom complaints….seriously?!

  10. Karen Jennings

    Andrew has it right , with the biggest concern of over fishing of crabs ect. People from out of state coming in to catch excessive amounts of crabs ect, theycarry little identification to help hinder who the are. If someone were to follow them it might be interesting to see which fish retailer or restaurant they sell to.
    Out of state where they live. Meanwhile our eco system gets depleted and when people here go to catch crabs, oh well sorry,
    There has to be an even balance and fairness and respect of hours for nearby home owners who pay such ridiculous taxes for what ? Nothing obviously. There is nothing wrong with restricting parking and access to this area like other beaches, parks ect, because without out fair rules people will do what they want. If the town allows unrestricted access and someone gets hurt could this result in liability?

  11. 1 hour of low flying helicopter activty over mill pond this morning, about 930 to 1030. I wonder if related…

  12. Danielle Mandelbaum-Schmidt

    I am detecting Weird racist vibes in this post, “They carry limited IDS and Documents”?? whats that supposed to mean…? Why would recreational shellfishing people need to carry documents? Do you carry documents for everything you do? “They have out of state plates” so what? The people who live in the mill pond need to realize that they have chosen to live abutting a public park area. We all need to share our natural resources, the beach/crabs included. Acess/parking should not be limited due to this nimby attitude, you should have thought about these issues before moving. The crabs and the beach belong to everyone. This is the same whining i hear about kids jumping off the bridge, if you don’t like it, go live in a gated 55+ community I’m tired of these people’s entitled attidue about our towns shared spaces.

    • Andrea Williams

      What a great reply Danielle, call them out. I thought 06880 was such an open, all encompassing town? I’m surprised they don’t want to see a W-2.

      I’m googling now, but not getting any results? Where is “Massachusites”? Is it near Knew York and Knew Jersey?

    • Sadly, I had the exact same feeling…. need to carry proper ID’s at the beach??? Speak in “broken” English… for my 50 years here I have both admired and felt empathy for people who often need to fish to eat healthy. Not everyone can shop at Fjord’s Fisheries.

  13. This has nothing to do with race although, unfortunately, so many people these days want it to be…. this has to do with over harvesting of blue crabs, pilfering of oysters in a restricted area that has a private and deeded claim to seeding and harvesting them and consideration and quality of life for those who live around the pond. I am sure that those who are claiming racism would feel differently if their homes were surrounded by 10-20 people flashing headlamps in their windows at 11:00pm.
    Recently, poachers were caught illegally harvesting shellfish for commercial purposes and had limited ability to communicate with the Marine Officers as a result of a language barrier. Asking for ID is common and should not constitute a rush to judgement making it about racism. I have in the past been approached by conservation officers and asked for my ID and fishing permit. The purpose of that is to ensure that I am compliant with the regulations. Those Westport and DEEP officers tasked with responding to complaints are following established legal procedure and do not make up the rules as they choose. Their interactions are professional, respectful and courteous. If people are compliant and are following the rules there is no issue…if not it’s a problem.

    I am writing this as a private citizen but in the spirit of full transparency, I am the current Chairperson of The Westport Shellfish Commission.

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