Meet Riverhead’s ‘crabman,’ who made a living on the bay

Flanders bayman Phil Tocci was back selling crabs this week in Riverhead. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Flanders bayman Phil Tocci was back selling crabs this week in Riverhead. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The “Crabman” returned to Route 58 for a few days this week selling his crustaceans out of the back of his pickup truck across from Riverhead Plaza shopping center.

Bayman Phil Tocci of Flanders had been a fixture during the season since the early 1970s. In recent years, a back problem has limited him, as well a need for more help. Now 74-years-old and semi-retired, Tocci has earned his living by fishing, gathering clams, mussels and steamers.

He uses a 17-foot wood and fiberglass boat he made himself in 1995, which he takes onto local bays in Flanders, Shinnecock and Moriches.

“It runs in cycles,” he said when asked how this season is going. “Sometimes it’s good for a couple years. Overall, not good this year.”

He had about 240 crabs on both Wednesday and Thursday this week which he sold for $15 to $20 a dozen depending on the size.

As people drove by Thursday afternoon, they yelled out their car windows and honked the horns.

By 3 p.m., his inventory was gone.

“The best part of crabbing is selling them,” he said. “I love the people.”