Crabbing in the Bay
Yesterday, I woke the kids early to meet my dad for a morning of crabbing and fishing. We drove to the bay and hopped in Dad’s boat right at 7am. Good thing. Not five minutes after we dropped anchor my youngest caught a catfish the size of my arm.
Within the first hour she had caught 8! Unfortunately, catfish are a pain to clean. Unlike other fish, catfish are “skinned”. Yes it is exactly like it sounds. I throw catfish back. They also have barbs with poison in the front fins. I suggest gloves if you handle them.
I was there for the crabs.
Blue Crabs to be exact or Callinectes sapidus if you want to be fancy. As the name says the crabs have a brilliant blue color on their legs. This color changes once they’re cooked.
Crabs are easy to catch. Take a net tie on fish, chicken, or some other piece of flesh and then lower to the bottom of the bay. Check the net every so often. Pull the string quickly, crabs get jumpy and will leap out if given the time.
Crabs are also greedy buggers. My dad caught several with his fishing pole with small shrimp. They hung on all the way up to the boat. Beware of the claws! Mean people are called crabby for a reason. One of the crabs jumped off the net and into the boat. He scurried around snapping at everything until he found a corner to hide in. Unfortunately, it was behind a box of chocolate chip cookies. My youngest, no doubt worried about the cookies, took a long pair of tongs and grabbed the crab. She quickly dropped him in the live well. Thus saving her cookies.
If you go to a seafood restaurant and order crab claws you will be greeted with a price tag around $16-$20 a pound. Catching them is cheaper. $2 for a net, $4 for bait shrimp to catch bait fish, and a few hours in the boat. You will be rewarded with a bucket of crabs worthy of making your friends jealous.
Why are crabs so expensive?
Crabs are small armored vehicles of the ocean. They die easy enough, pour hot water on them. Wait a few minutes and that’s it. Here’s a nice article with pictures. Basically, once you pull the throw away legs off you are left with a body and two claws. The claws can be easy to get into. The body takes work. You pull the apron off (belly) rake out the goo and rinse. Then you can cook them. Once cooked you need to break into the shells to get to the meat. The body usually requires cracking open in several places to get the meat out. It takes awhile. It’s messy. My kids used the end of a knife as a hammer. I’ll be sweeping up shells for days.
When I was a kid, you had to pick crabs yourself. They didn’t sell cleaned crab meat. Now, most people buy it because they don’t want to fool with them. It’s easier. My grandmother made gumbo with fresh crabs. We’d sit down to a beautiful brown bowl of gumbo. Floating on top would be crab bodies. That’s right. She didn’t pick them and add the meat. She just tossed the bodies and claws in. We fought over those claws! My girls have never seen that. I have plans to make gumbo this September with crab bodies. I’ll let you know how it goes.
But whatever you do with crabs just remember- clean them before you cook them. You don’t want that nasty yellow goo floating around your plate.