Crabbing is not only fun for the whole family, but it yields some of the best eating meat out there. The following are some tips to help make your crabbing adventures a success.
Crabbing From Docks
When crabbing from docks or piers, the tendency is to try and cast the pot as far as possible. Instead, try dropping your pot directly at the footing of a dock, where male crabs are more apt to hang out.
Where pilings are driven into the sand, washes are created at the base of them. To avoid battling currents, crabs will often slip into these depressions, grabbing food as it floats by.
Be sure to drop the pot on the side of the dock from where the tide is flowing away. This will ensure that the pot won’t be carried under the dock, potentially getting hung up in the pilings.
For boaters, bays are the most commonplace to pursue crabs. The best crabbing bays are ones with the minimal influx from freshwater runoff. Bays experiencing mild tidal shifts are also more crab-friendly.
The best crabbing typically occurs lower in bays, where salinity levels remain high. Traveling too far into bays finds low salinity levels and too much freshwater influence from tributaries, meaning few keeper crabs will be found.
The sandy habitat located just off the main beach and beyond the breakers creates ideal crabbing habitat. When seasons and weather conditions foster offshore access, crabbing can be phenomenal.
Sticking close to shore, in 20 to 75 feet of water with a sandy bottom is ideal. Often times you need only travel a couple of hundred yards over the bar or outside the mouth of a bay to access prime crabbing grounds.
By staying close to shore, strong currents and deep runs can be avoided. Pots tossed too far out are susceptible to being carried away by harsh currents and large, seagoing vessels. Maps created by NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Association) show what substrates are present along the coastline.
Buoy lines stretching 100 feet in length are good for offshore crab pots. At the same time, adding up to five pounds of extra weight to your pot is a good idea to keep them on the bottom.
Biological studies have revealed that crabs do not like old, putrid flesh. The old adage, “the more rotten the bait, the better” is no longer valid. In actuality, the more accurate statement is “the fresher the bait, the better.”
Attaining a fresh bait rich in oils is preferred, with shad topping the list. Fresh fish carcasses are top bait choices, as are frozen turkey legs, chicken and mink.
When placing baits in a pot, suspend them from the top of the frame. This will keep them from laying flat on the bottom, where they can get sanded-in when left out among moving tides. Keeping the bait off the bottom of the trap also makes it tough for crabs to fully devour them, meaning the bait works longer.
If dropping pots in deep, dark water, try suspending a glow stick from the top. The added light often attracts crabs. If crabbing in bays where a strong tidal current is present, use heavy-gauge pots or affix a five-pound weight to light-framed pots to prevent them from being carried away.
Crabs have an acute sense of smell. Try laying your pots in a line so the tide or currents carry the scent from each of them in the same direction. The result will be crabs picking up and following a single scent line, versus being pulled in several directions by a multitude of baits. If competing with fellow crabbers, laying a scent trail with good, fresh bait can give you the advantage.
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