Outdoor Corner: Are You Feeling Crabby?

Lyle Johnson
A morning's catch of crabs on the side of the road in Delacroix. Photo by Lyle Johnson

Ever wake up in the morning and feel a little crabby? Or maybe go to bed feeling crabby? Or just feel crabby in the middle of the day, and the only way to get over it is to eat some boiled crabs, or one of the many other ways to prepare them.

I‘ve enjoyed the outdoors many times and have been amazed at the bounty of wildlife we have in our area. The blue crab is probably my favorite seafood to eat, and it pretty much doesn’t matter how they are prepared, I enjoy them all.

The scientific name for the crab is callinectes sapidus. That comes from the Greek words “calli” which means beautiful, “nectes” meaning swimmer and “sapidus” meaning savory. A beautiful swimmer that is savory. Sounds like a perfect description of what I’m talking about.

The Blue Crab, Atlantic Blue Crab, or regionally known as the Chesapeake blue crab, is a species of crab native to the waters of the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, which is our home waters.

They are readily available most of the time at our local seafood markets and can be bought from locals who catch and sell them or seafood restaurants. But there is another way you can get your hands on some that can be a lot more fun and create some memories that last a lifetime. This year has been a very good year for crabbing. Sometimes everything lines up just right and something spectacular happens; so it is this year for crabs.

So let’s go catch us some crabs to eat. First we need bait. Crabs feed by smell and seem to enjoy chicken or turkey necks. Legs and thighs work well also. Fish heads, especially catfish work good as well.

Using a boat is a great way that gives you more techniques to use. Nets are one way that works well. Purchase some good ones that will last you a long time. A couple dozen is usually a good number. Place your bait in the center and tie a float on top of your string and set the nets about 20 yards apart. Let them sit a while then go and pick them up.

Another popular way is to set lines out of the boat while it’s on anchor. Tie your bait on the end of your string using enough to let the bait go to the bottom. When the string tightens, slowly pull it in using a dip net to catch the crabs when you get them to the top. This way is usually better for kids, as it give them something to do and is more fun for them.

One of my favorite ways that is really inexpensive and not too hard to accomplish is crabbing from the bank. This is not a complicated affair but you do have to get a few things ready. The bait is the same and some of the rigging is the same with a few minor adjustments.

You can use string (nylon twine) with the length determined by the distance you want to be away from the bank. After you determine the length, tie the bait on the end. You’ll have to either hold the line or fasten it to where you’re fishing somehow.

Throw it out and let the bait sink to the bottom. The crabs swim by and get hold of the bait, then continue swimming that tightens the line. Slowly pull the string in and make sure you have a long handled net so you can reach out and get the crabs before they get too close to the bank.

Lots of folks use string lines, but we’ve discovered a much better way that makes things much easier. A rod and reel is the best way to catch crabs in this situation. A weight of ¼ oz or larger to cast out and get the bait to the bottom will do. Either a hook to attach the bait or just tie it on the string works well.

Two rods per person will be enough as sometimes it might be hard to keep up with two. The reason a rod and reel works better than string is you can get the crab up off the bottom quickly and can be consistently reeled in slowly so they don’t let go as much. Works like a charm.

A long-handled net (6’ to 8’) is needed to dip the crabs before they get to the bank. The mesh needs to be 1” so the crabs don’t get tangled up. A small mesh net will do the job but you will spend more time trying to get the crabs out of the net than you are fishing for them. This is very frustrating; I know from experience.

After dipping the crabs have an ice chest nearby to deposit them in. A bag of ice (unopened) will keep them plenty cool. When the trip is finished, pour the ice on top of the crabs to get them cold. The crabs won’t let go of their paws when boiling them if they are cold.

This kind of story is repeated many times over during the summer and you don’t even need a boat. At the spillway in Norco there is a big pier you can crab off of right off the Airline. You can follow the road along the levee to a pier in Lake Ponchatrain where you can even wade in the water and set lines.

Grand Isle is one of the favorite spots for crabbing in the surf. All this summer crabs have been caught by the dozens and sometimes you can just dip them with a net. With just a little effort and not too much expense, you can have a family outing that will create memories that will last a life time. rem So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun, be safe in the outdoors and may God truly bless you!