Fun At The Coast
Have Fun Crabbing At The NC Coast
They look like some kind of big armored spider left over from the Paleolithic era. They skitter around sideways on paddle feet. Their beady little eyes bug out of both sides of their head. Yet somehow nothing looks better on a dinner plate than a Carolina blue crab.
The wonderful thing about these delectable crustaceans, of course, is that unlike the more finicky fish, crabs are always biting. (Although low tide is the optimum time to net them.) And you don’t need elaborate gear, exotic baits or even a lucky fishing hat to catch your fill. Just a ball of twine or sturdy string, a fresh chicken neck, a scoop net and a big bucket or a cooler will do. (Other bait options are chicken backs, fish heads, salted eel or bull lips – anything sort of funky and chewy that can’t be devoured or absconded with ease.)
The secrets to being a successful crabber are really as simple as ABC:
A) Keep your bait fresh. Crabs follow the scent trail your bait leaves in the water. Frozen baits won’t put out nearly as savory a scent.
B) Position yourself where crabs prefer to hang out. Their favorite haunts include boat docking areas, pier pilings and bulkheads (manmade walls). Tidal creeks, coves, estuaries and places with grassy, muddy bottoms are popular spots, too.
C) Loosen up and have fun. This isn’t brain surgery. Just a little patience, and a good, gentle hand-over-hand motion as you’re bringing in your bait will yield a bucketful of these undersea treasures.
Also, be sure to bring your scoop net in from behind the crabs. Because of the way their shifty little bug eyes are positioned on their bodies, they’ll never see it coming.
Some creative crabbers prefer to form night parties, luring and scooping their unsuspecting prey under the shooting stars. On these nocturnal jaunts, having three pairs of hands is usually advisable: One pair for bringing in the bait. One to work the net. One to hold the flashlight.
And here’s yet another beauty of North Carolina’s blue crabs: cooking a batch of them is as easy as catching them. Main ingredients: Live crabs. (Deceased ones can actually make you sick.) One big pot of boiling water. Spices. One person to monitor when their shells turn red. (Usually takes about 15 minutes.) Admittedly, cracking a crab and extracting the succulent meat can be a little labor-intensive. But then, since when did something really worthwhile ever come easily?
Once you’ve collected a good amount of the flaky, savory crabmeat, you’re free to enjoy your reward in all sorts of ways: simply eat it right out of the claw or shell, or perhaps dipped in some melted butter; use the meat to make some mouth-watering deviled crabs or crab cakes; even try it as a delectable stuffing for trout, grouper, flounder – you name it.
As you can see, crabbing is so easy, a child can do it. And there’s nothing quite like its simple pleasure to bring out the child in you, too.
added: January 4, 2009
updated: January 5, 2009