A lot of you know that in my blogs I write about extreme hunting and fishing adventures, but before any person goes offshore in search of Sailfish and Tuna, or to the Great white North of Alaska for Bear or Moose, there was a little kid with a cane pole or a crab trap complete with a chicken leg tied to the middle in search of blue claw crabs and sand crabs. Hurricane Sandy, which recently devastated parts the North East, also destroyed many of the areas that I grew up in, including one of my favorite bridges that I fished and crabbed from as a boy. I often wonder why that in today's difficult economic times, and with the need for some easy relaxation, I don't get back into some of those adventures I held so dear in my memories of childhood. So with that I have decided to begin once again hunting the bays and bridges of South Florida in search of the elusive Blue Crab.
In this article, I will tell you how to catch blue crabs, and then, how to cook them!
Crab remains have been identified at paleolithic camp sites in areas of the Suwanne river, and at Archaic sites as far south as 10,000 islands, so we know that Floridians have been chasing these tasty monsters for at least 12,000 years or so. We've learned to eat them in everything from butter to hot sauce to spaghetti sauce, so your own preference is bound to produce a wonderful dinner. They're relatively easy to catch, too.
Many of us that were born, or spent their childhood up North know very well about Blue Crabs (or Blue Claws), but we seem to have stopped looking for them once we hit South Florida. Well, Guess what? There are quite decent amounts of those tasty crustaceans down here too! You just need to know where to look. They can be found on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, but remember, the sandy beaches are not the optimum place to find them, as there are fewer places for them to hide to avoid predators such as Tarpon and Permit. Look for grass beds that not only provide cover for the Crabs but also an ample supply of food. The pilings of bridges are also a great place to look, and you can do this scouting by boat or by foot. Areas near the Skyway Bridge towards Tampa and the Card Sound Road heading towards Key Largo have both proven very productive.
Traps and Florida Blue Crab Regulations (Recreational)
After checking Florida blue crab regulations for how many traps you can use and what license is needed (if any), you can go to your local tackle shop or Outdoors superstore (even Wal-Mart might have them) and purchase a trap or two. When fishing from shore I usually stick with the Pyramid shaped Crab Trap. Basically you tie a chunk of bait to the center of the trap and when it is lowered to the bottom the walls of the pyramid open and lay flat on the bottom, allowing Crabs to walk up to the bait to start feasting. After about 45 mins to and hour you quickly pull on the trap line, closing the Pyramid with the crabs trapped inside. Pull it in quickly as quite often there may be some crabs hanging on the outside of the trap. I have seen guys whip this trap around to get some serious distance from the dock or bridge they are fishing from, but its really not all that necessary.
Another type of trap that is used is made of wire mesh in the shape of a big box or rectangle. These can be used from a boat and left for much longer periods of time. You can leave them out by tying a float to the end of the line and then coming back in several hours or even a day or two. In these types of crab traps, the Blue Crabs will walk in and not be able to get back out do to the design of the entrance. This type of trap is the one where you should really check the state license requirements for crabbing, as I think the non-commercial limit is five traps. Also, be mindful to release any crabs that are carrying eggs on their bellies and it's always a good idea to release small ones.
What Do Blue Crabs Eat?As for bait, Crabs are pretty much scavengers and almost anything will work. I have seen everything used from Chicken parts to other things you can get at a grocery, but lets try to keep it to what they usually eat. Next time you go out fishing, freeze up what you are not keeping, a fish head, a dead Mullet or any other oily fish, if its got scent, it can draw in crabs. Make certain you attach whatever you are using for bait securely to the center of the trap, crabs can leave you sitting with an un-baited trap for hours before you realize they walked off with the bait. Once they get a hold of the bait they will hold on and guard it with a passion. I have seen a young man tossing out just a line with a chicken leg attached, and then bringing it up with a Blue Crab hanging on right to the waters surface, and then scooping it up with a dip net. Consider this method number 3 for catching them.
How to Cook Blue Crabs
So now you have a pail full of Blue Claw Crabs, one of the seas most delectable treats. What next? Well, whether you are from New England, Chesapeake Bay or the Gulf Coast of Texas, its pretty much always been the same, toss your crabs into a big pot of boiling water or steam them, but make sure they are alive when you begin and season the water as you like it, I'm an Old Bay Seasoning kind of guy, but pretty much any kind of fish boil seasoning will do just fine. Wait for the shells of the crabs to turn wonderful shade of vivid red, pick a crab and whack it with a mallet until you can get to the sweet white meat of the claws and body of the crab. It can get messy, but its oh so worth it!
Whether you are reliving your youth, merely looking for an economical way to get out and have some fun with the kids, or entertaining friends visiting from the Midwest who have not seen an ocean, A quick trip to the bait and tackle store and a bit of scouting can not only amuse you, but create a great feast that all can take part in harvesting and cooking! Good Crabbing and Bon Appetite!
From the publisher: This "How to Catch Blue Crabs" article is the second of a series of "how-to" articles from an outdoor writer named Noah Hochman that we were lucky enough to stumble upon. Noah has a beautiful, informative website called TheOutdoorsGuy.com, where you can find how-to articles, as well as great stories about everything outdoors: fishing, hunting, hiking, etc. Give his site a visit, you'll be glad you did. Thanks for sharing your great stories and knowledge with us Noah!
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