Crabtastic fun

  • Monday, August 25, 2014

Eileen Keithly/South Strand News Stinky chicken necks really are the best bait for catching crabs.

Photos

Tired of crabs stealing your fish bait? Turn the tables and catch the crabs.

Crabbing is entertaining, exciting and something the entire family can do.

Sounds fun, but you don’t have a clue how to catch a crab?

No worries. Huntington Beach State Park’s Naturalist Interpreter Molly Wainscott will have you catching crabs in no time. “This is super-easy, and people can get addicted to it,” Wainscott said at a recent crab-catching instruction session at Oyster Cove in Murrells Inlet.

As part of Huntington Beach State Park’s Coastal Exploration Program, the Nature Center offers crabbing as a weekly activity.

Wainscott provides the hand lines, dip nets and chicken necks. Participants provide three dollars, patience and the willingness to get a little muddy.

“Patience is a virtue,” Wainscott told the crabbers. “You need to be willing to get a little wet, a little muddy, and stand still, be quiet, and be patient.”

While Wainscott baits the lines for participants, with what she described as “stinky” chicken necks, she gives them an informative tutorial on the blue crab and other species of crab they might reel in.

She also reminds the participants they are taking part in a catch-and-release program.

“We won’t be keeping our crabs today, but once you learn how to do this, you can come back here and catch yourself a nice dinner.”

Wainscott also cautioned the participants about crabbing inside the state park.

“We have had some problems in the past with alligators getting tangled up in crab nets, so I would ask that you not crab off the boardwalks or observation decks in the park.”

Wainscott passed out chicken-baited crab lines to “newbie crabbers” ages two to 62.

Each one was anxious to be the first to catch a crab.

Six-year-old Rozlyn Myers from Gatlinburg, Tenn., was the first to snag one.

“I got one, I really got one, look, and it’s on the thingy!” an excited Myers squealed with delight, forgetting all about the quiet aspect of crabbing.

Wainscott kneeled down to Myers’ level and helped her dislodge the crab from the hook, explaining that she had caught a female crab.

“Let’s turn it over and see what you have caught,” she said. “Yep, see there, you caught a girl crab – a Sally.”

Wainscott explained to the entire group quickly forming around the young crabber that a “Sally” is an immature female blue crab. They are easily identified as having an inverted “V” or triangular-shaped apron and red-tipped claws. “Her apron is sealed tightly to her body and does not open because she is young and she cannot mate or carry eggs.”

After re-baiting Myers’ line and sending her back into the water for another crab, Wainscott continued explaining the anatomical differences in male and female crabs. “You will know when you have caught an adult female crab,” she said, “because she will have an inverted U-shaped apron and red-tipped claws.”

A male blue crab, known as a “Jimmy,” has a long, narrow, inverted T-shaped apron and blue-tipped claws.

Wainscott’s shoreline discussion was stopped short when three-year-old Shane McGowan from Pittsburgh, Pa., caught his first crab. “Look. Look in there,” McGowan pointed into his net. “It’s in there, and I caught a crabby.”

The crab was in the net, and just under the size of a half dollar, which prompted Wainscott to conclude her discussion on crabbing with a tutorial on the rules and regulations that govern it.

“If you catch a crab like this, or any crab less than five inches from tip to tip, you cannot keep it; you must release it back in to the water,” Wainscott said. “Also, any crabs that you catch that have eggs must be released.”

Wainscott ended the crabbing adventure with a few tips for the culinary crabbers in the group.

“If you plan on eating your catch, make sure you have the proper equipment with you, as eating bad crabs can make you very sick,” she warned.

Culinary crabbers will need to have a bucket or cooler of ice with them at all times to make sure the crabs stay alive until they are ready to be cooked and eaten.

Wainscott cautioned the crabbers, “Never put crabs in a bucket of water. The water will soon lose oxygen and suffocate the crabs.”

She also asked the crabbers that unless they were going to eat a blue crab, to release it back in to the water unharmed. “We want to always think about conserving our resources for future generations.”

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