Catch your own for a sweet beach treat (just donít get pinched)
on Fri, Jul. 14, 2006
Crabby: adj., cross or ill-natured
Crabbing: v., the cure for crabby
For many who visit the South Carolina coast each summer, crabbing
is as much a part of the ritual as reading a good book or walking
along the beach. Those who haven’t tried it are missing the
thrill of scooping up an angry-looking blue crab, the screeching
of children when a little crab escapes from the net near their toes,
the taste of fresh crab meat hot from the pot.
If you’ve never tried it, here are some pointers:
WHAT YOU NEED
Cotton or nylon string, several yards
Chicken neck, chicken back or turkey neck for bait
Large bucket for holding your haul
HOW TO DO IT
• Tie bait and a metal weight to the end of the string. It’s
a good idea to tie the other end to a small piece of wood. You can
stand in the water holding the wooden base or anchor it in the sand
on the water’s edge. Once you feel a tug on the line, pull
it in slowly. When the bait with crab happily munching away reaches
shallow water, dip under the bait with a long-handled net and scoop
up the crab.
• One alternative method especially popular in saltwater creeks
is to use metal mesh drop nets or collapsible traps. Secure bait
in the net or trap and drop it to the bottom, where it will flatten
out. After waiting a while, pull up the trap, which will close around
the bait and capture any crabs munching away.
You can catch crabs anyplace with calm salt or brackish water, but
novices need to be aware of the dangers of pluff mud (it’s
dark brown and gooey stuff that sucks up shoes and stains clothing)
and sharp oyster shells along creek banks. The best way to avoid
those concerns is to stick near public boat landings or fishing
piers. A few of the best spots in the Charleston area are Brittlebank
Park (off Lockwood Boulevard behind the minor-league baseball stadium),
James Island County Park (off Folly Road) and the north end of Folly
Beach (just turn left at the island’s only light and drive
as far as you can, then walk the final quarter-mile to Lighthouse
Inlet). For a list of public boat landings, go to saltwaterfishing.sc.gov/boatlandings.html.
The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission offers crabbing
outings at its James Island and Mount Pleasant Palmetto Islands
parks; (843) 795-4386. And there’s a crabbing program every
Tuesday at Myrtle Beach State Park; (843)238-5325.
FROM NET TO BUCKET
• The trickiest part of crabbing is getting the crabs from
the net into the bucket. Often crabs clamp onto the net and refuse
to drop into the bucket. That means you have to extract them yourself.
Remember, crabs are quick and can pinch with their claws. If a crab
escapes the net and is on the sand, press lightly on the top shell
with a shoe, stick or other device. Then pick up the crab by the
base of the back two legs (the swimming paddles). If you hold on
tightly, the claws can’t reach your fingers.
It’s best to keep the crabs in a dry, cool bucket. If you’re
planning an extended crabbing trip, you might want to put the catch
on ice. In general, though, they will survive several hours in a
• Crabs can be caught at any time of the day, but they often
are more active early in the morning or late in the afternoon during
hot weather. They also are most active during moving tides, the
last few hours before high tide or low tide.
• Crabs are in the water year round, but they are inactive
during cold months. Usually, you can catch them from April through
November. They grow throughout the year, with the largest crabs
usually are caught in the fall.
• Crabs can be steamed or boiled. The easiest method is to
simply dump the crabs into a large pot of boiling water. Just make
sure the water completely covers the crabs. Sprinkle seasonings
into the water. Cooking generally takes 20 to 30 minutes.
• Some people prefer to clean the crabs before cooking, but
it’s easier to do after cooking. To clean, pluck off the legs
and throw away all but the claws, pull off the shell, scrape the
guts out of the middle of the body and rinse until you have just
a clean body full of white meat.
• Picking the crabs involves pulling the white meat from the
soft internal shell and breaking open the claws — you’ll
need a hammer for the larger ones — to take out the darker
meat. Crab meat is great to eat plain, dipped in butter or cooked
into any number of dishes.