Crabs are probably the first quarry we have pursued since our childhood. That is not to say crabbing is only for kids — quite the contrary. I still enjoy catching a “mess” of big ol’ Jimmy crabs for dinner. Crabs can be caught from April to October. There are many ways to catch them but by far the most fun for kids has to be the simplest. Crabbing is by far one of the least expensive ways ($12-15 for all the gear) to entertain your kids. My son really loves crabbing and eating crabs. If you are a fisherman like me but your young one has less attention span than a cocker spaniel, it is a good way to keep them occupied while you are doing the “big boy fishing.”
All you need to start crabbing is some chicken or fish, a ball of twine and a dip net. Tie the chicken or fish to a string and toss it into the water (sometimes it helps to add a weight if the water is deep). Then just wait a minute and start retrieving the string slowly. When you see the crab holding onto the bait just dip it up. Other methods include dropping a baited net to the bottom and simply picking the net up after a little while. The most efficient method of catching crabs is using crab pots. They can be bought for $25-35 at most tackle shops. All you do it bait the pot up and drop it in an area where crabs are. Times to leave the pot in the water vary, but a good rule of thumb is to leave it through 1 or 2 tide changes but no longer. I have even caught some nice flounder in my crab pots. You are allowed 1 crab pot per person as long as it is tied to a private dock. If you wish to use more than one or use one off of your boat you will need a recreational commercial gear license (RCGL) and attach a pink buoy to each one with your name and boat numbers on it. As of now (Aug. 4, 2014) you are allowed 50 blue claw crabs a day not to exceed 100 crabs per boat. The blue claw crab must be 5 inches from the longest pointy part of the shell (carapace) to the other. In addition female crabs must not have a carapace any wider than 6-and-three-quarter inches, but that rule only applies from September through April. There are a few other crabs in our area including the stone crab. Stone crab meat is wonderful, but I suggest calling the North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries at 1-800-682-2632 as the regulations are a bit more extensive on stone crabs than I have space for in this article.
A great place to crab on the island is at the Surf City soundside park. There are lots of piers and docks there for the public to enjoy. Underneath the high rise bridge is also a great area. Bottom line is if you have water, you will probably have crabs as long as the water is not frigid. So get out there and have some fun while you catch your dinner.
Tight lines and fair winds.
Capt. Chris Medlin is a third-generation tackle shop owner and charter captain. He makes his home on Topsail but loves fishing all over. Most of the time you can find him at East Coast Sports in Surf City or just contact him through his website at Eastcoastsports.com.