Many hungry vacationers will seek out the rich sweetness of Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs this summer. Arguably, you haven’t lived until you’ve cracked fresh-steamed crabs over a newspapered table.
However, unless you plan to second mortgage your house to order pricey steamed blue crabs for the whole family at a restaurant, you might want to consider catching these feisty critters yourselves.
With a few supplies rummaged from home, fishing blue crabs can save a military family budget about $18-20 per pound of prepared crabmeat. Simply dig around in the garage and your kitchen junk drawer to find a net, a long string with a sinker and hook tied on one end, and a cheap cooler with a lid. A quick poke through the trash will yield your bait – smelly chicken necks and fish heads work best.
But be forewarned: A myriad of secondary supplies are required, depending on the tolerance level of your family. Your crabbing expedition may involve lawn chairs, smelling salts, cards, a badminton set, Jenga, a full length copy of War and Peace, ear plugs, a brown paper bag, ointment, bandages, aloe vera, tweezers, and an enormous cooler of cold beverages.
[Note: Do not use the beverage cooler to store your crabs unless you like them marinated in Dr. Pepper. These nasty critters may be small, but they’re mad as hell and can pierce an average beer can with a snap. Moreover, the minor convenience of bringing one cooler is not worth the risk of the severe puncture wounds you will suffer as you reach in for a cold one.]
Haul your supplies to a suitable location — any old dock on the bay will do. Place one rotting chicken neck or fish head firmly on your hook, making sure to have smelling salts nearby in case you pass out from the revolting odor. When fully conscious, hold one end of the string, and chuck the baited hook several feet from the dock. Tie the string to the dock, take a seat in your lawn chair, and open a cold beverage.
Ahh, crabbing’s not so bad, you’re thinking, right? But please, be aware that it may take anywhere from thirty seconds to a full 24 hour and 52 minute tidal cycle to catch a crab. This would be a good time to make use of the cards, Jenga, badminton set and full-length copy of War and Peace.
Every so often, check your string for vibrations indicating that a blue crab is nibbling your bait. When you feel a twitch, pull your string ever so slowly, luring the unsuspecting crab toward the dock. Your prey is no Einstein – its pea-sized brain will think the putrid chicken neck is trying to escape and will grasp it even tighter.
Once you are able to see the crab, do not remain calm. Gasp, jump, knock your beverage over, and exclaim loudly, “I got one!! Grab the net!!” If you have not scared your catch away, have a family member scoop up the crab while you yell, “Get the darned thing for Pete’s sake!!”
You will inevitably fail at your first attempt to deposit the crab into the cooler, resulting in it scrambling around on the dock while your family emits blood-curdling screams at high decibels. Earplugs and brown paper bag may come in handy.
Once you manage to secure a crab in the cooler, repeat the aforementioned steps 34 times, yielding a half bushel of crabs – just enough meat to feed a family of five, as long as you also have corn on the cob, watermelon, bread, hamburgers, salad, beans and a half-dozen pies.
When you are done crabbing, properly dress your crab nip wounds with bandages, treat your bug bites with ointment, apply aloe vera to your sunburn, and pull out dock splinters with tweezers before heading home to steam and pick your catch.
And by the way, good luck with that!
[For more information on blue crabs and crab fishing on the East and Gulf coasts, see these helpful sites: www.chesapeakebay.noaa.gov/fish-facts/blue-crab, www.instructables.com/id/Crabbing-For-Beginners/, www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQ9cT9_3ASg.]