How to Catch Blue Crabs

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Crab fishing involves the correct bait, technique and equipment.
Crab fishing involves the correct bait, technique and equipment.

Crabbing can provide both a day of family fun and a nice dinner for residents and visitors of the Atlantic or Gulf coasts. Blue crabs are abundant, and fishing for them is considered a relatively easy activity. All one needs is the correct bait, equipment and a little bit of know-how. Finally, proper care and handling after the crabs' capture will ensure a safe and enjoyable dinner.

Things You'll Need

  • Chicken necks or oily fish bait
  • Dip net with fishing line and hook or crab pot
  • Bushel basket

Know where and when to find the blue crab. Crabs live in an area from the Mid-Atlantic down to the Gulf of Mexico, from New England to Florida. Crabbing will yield better results in the warmer months, although blue crabs are present in the aforementioned areas year-round. Crabs burrow in deep water during the winter months.

Stock up on the fishing essentials, which will include bait, catching gear and a place to store the crabs. For novice crabbing, go for chicken necks as bait; they are relatively inexpensive. Professionals use oily fish bait. As for catching gear, one could go for something as basic as a drip net, or opt for the more complex crab pot. A wooden bushel basket is recommended for crab storage. All of these supplies can be found at fishing or sports retailers. Thick gloves are recommended for the novice.

Novice crabbers should use chicken necks and dip nets to catch their creatures.
Novice crabbers should use chicken necks and dip nets to catch their creatures.

Go fishing for the crabs. From either pier or boat, submerge the baited drip net or a bait-lined crab pot into the water. The crab pot has two chambers connected by wire, and the bait should placed in the center compartment on the lower level. The natural tendency of the blue crab is to swim upwards when trapped into confinement. Thus, when the crab pot is put into action, the blue crabs swim directly into the second chamber. Alternatively, by affixing bait to the end of a string attached to the drip net, the crabs swim to the surface to eat the bait. When the crab is spotted, use the net to capture the crab.

Transfer the crabs. When transferring the blue crab from the catching apparatus to the basket, take care or the crabs will break free. Take special caution, or the crabs will grab you, and it will hurt. Be sure to hold the crab from behind, either with one or two hands, gripping the paddle-shaped swimming legs with the thumbs and forefingers. Grip the legs at the point where they meet the shell. Also, to sedate the crab, press down on the top of the shell, but not too much or the shell will crack.

Contain the blue crabs until cooking time. The crabs need to be kept cool and dry, either in a refrigerator or cooler with a little bit of ice. Do not store in water, or they will immediately die from a lack of oxygen. Crabs immediately begin to spoil after they die. Only consume crab that is alive prior to preparation. The crabs may be motionless while cold, but throw out any crab that doesn't move upon warming.

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