Anyone who grew up near a body of water, especially on the coast, probably knows how serious crabbing can be when the summer months roll around. As soon as the season opens up, crab nets and small cages will be set at the edges of docks all over, with the hopes of a crab (or several) taking a bite out of the chicken drumstick that's sitting at the end of them. While this is a very old-school method of crabbing, the same attitude still applies - it's part of coastal life and likely always will be.
Crabbing laws vary from place to place which is why it might look different from one place to another. With that being said, if it's something you can do, why not try it? For fans of seafood (especially shellfish!), it's something that everyone should try out at least once. There's nothing like fresh crab and knowing that you're the one who caught it. Similar to fishing, there are some beginner tips and tricks of the trade that can help a person ease into crabbing for the first time.
Catching Crab: Knowing Where To Look
Just like fish, crab does appear in both saltwater and freshwater locations. And if you do happen to live near a saltwater location, it doesn't necessarily mean that you'll need to go crabbing from a boat in order to catch something. The best thing to do is look up local crabbing laws and information, or go and speak to a bait and tackle shop, about where the best crabbing locations are. And, when in doubt, talk to the locals! Don't be afraid to ask someone who is crabbing about the area and where you should start - they're often the most experienced of anyone.
As a general rule of thumb, according to takemefishing.org, saltwater crabs are more likely to hang out around bays and inlets, and anywhere there's brackish water. For these, shallow and marshy areas are the best place to start the search. This is especially helpful for those who are crabbing from land since crabs have a tendency to hide out around structures, such as docks and jetties.
Alternatively, freshwater crabs require a bit of a hide-and-seek search method, with the person crabbing always being the seeker. They tend to hide under rocks and logs, so be sure to check anywhere that could be a solid hiding spot. They also enjoy shallow water so tidepools and any well-hidden spots along the shoreline are a good bet.
What You'll Need To Do It
Not much is needed to start crabbing which is why it's a nice alternative to some of the other fishing sports. The easiest thing to start with is some tackle line and bait (which we'll get to later on). Tying this off at the end of a dock or jetty will give crabs time to start eating the bait on the other end of the line and, when that happens, simply tug it to the surface. The downside is catching one crab at a time but the upside is that it's insanely cheap. A net also helps with this and can double as a tool all on its own, specifically a dip net.
For those who are serious about catching crabs and want to bring in as many as possible in one trip, a crab trap might be a better option. Crab traps vary in size and the best one can be purchased according to a person's budget. While pricier than the alternatives, a crab trap is often the easiest way to catch shellfish. They can be baited and left at the bottom of a shallow body of water and should be checked every 15 to 30 minutes, and crabbers should have their nets ready. This is the easiest way to catch multiple crabs at once so, if that's something a person is interested in, it's worth the investment.
Let's Talk About Bait
Crabs will eat practically anything as is their scavenger nature. The most common - and affordable - form of bait is raw chicken or turkey. This meat will emit a smell and a potent odor that crabs are drawn to, which is why it works so well when placed on the end of a fishing line that's been tied off.
Additionally, any kind of smelly fish would work just as well, and fish bait can be purchased from bait and tackle stores. Believe it or not, crabs will even go for something as simple and cheap as a hot dog, according to takemefishing.org.