For more than a 100 years, fisheries have been accustomed to the plentiful blue crabs at Chesapeake bay. The Blue Crab has historically been a significant food source for the Native Americans and European settlers in the Chesapeake area.
As they became more desirable, a substantial guide and several techniques is all you need when crabbing. You can enjoy this recreational activity for the benefits or vacationing with your family. This activity is done during the day right before dawn or in the evening near sunset. Blue crabs are the most recognizable swimmers in the Chesapeake Bay colored with bright blue claws and an olive green shell about 9 inches long. When setting up crab traps or lines, they like to feast on clams, oysters or dead plants.
Aside from the glorious blue crab, there are many other types of Chesapeake Bay crabs found.Starting with the Atlantic ghost crab, or sand crab, who eats clams, mole crabs, insects and roughly stretches about 3 inches. After noticing their sandy exterior, you will see their white claws when they are along the beach from spring through autumn.
The Chinese Mitten Crab, native to East Asia, are quite smaller, travel in packs, with claws resembling mittens and U or V shaped abdomens. They enjoy feeding on algae, fish eggs or aquatic plants.
Don’t worry our next pick, the common spider crab, is long-legged but moves slowly hanging near algae and debris. Feeding on large starfish and unaggressive they have poor eyesight and linger near mud.
The Fiddler Crabs are smaller crustaceans known for having enlarged claws living near the beaches, mud flats and marshes. They feast on algae and decaying marsh plants.
You might see these little critters in action, the hermit crab, when they borrow other animals’ shells since they don’t have one. They enjoy shallow waters in the lower part of Chesapeake enjoying the mud flats, sand and feast on tiny particles.
Another favorite you might have guessed is the Horseshoe Crab. They have harder shells with a pod shape that remind you of a horseshoe. Be careful when visiting during spring and summer, their tail is a spike.
Lastly, the marsh crab, who is small, visits the shore and hangs near the middle to lower areas of the bay. Only walking on three legs, they live in salt and brackish marshes.
If you are serious about crabbing on your vacation, you have to acquire your license and follow a few regulations before heading out to shore.
For a Maryland license you can learn more on licenses, fees and day of the week restrictions here for crabbing. A typical license is valid for 365 days from the date you purchase or register.
Scan this quick size guidehere before netting all your crabs. This will give you an idea of the minimum size limits depending on what season you are traveling in.
Click here if you are in Virginia crabbing hot spots and need more information on licenses, fees and size limits.
Now you can start your vacation adventures with these recommendations for crabbing locations that are family friendly as well.
Here at Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park, on the Choptank River, with the shoreline and hiking trails open from sunrise to sunset. A popular pick with lighted areas for visitors who like fishing and crabbing any time of the day or night, enjoy a bike path or have a small picnic.
Similar choice, Fort Smallwood Park, with 90 acres of amenities consisting of a fishing pier accessible for the handicapped, boat ramps, beaches, walking trails, and playgrounds. And you cannot miss the giant fishing gem that is 380-foot deep to catch a variety of fish and crabs.
Just 10 miles south of Prince Frederick, you will find Flag Ponds Nature Park. Enjoy its one of kind nature center with trails, a sandy beach with heights of the Calvert cliffs and freshwater ponds for spotting crabs. But you might watch out for the occasional jellyfish that swim on shore.
Another car-top boating launch spot, Jonas and Anne Catharine Green Park has a fishing pier merging with an old bridge, open 24 hours a day, and is near the Severn River. Covered in sandy beaches, this crabbing spree is great for you on the weekdays versus weekends for fellow travelers.
Fit for a king with abundant wildlife, the Kings Land Park distinct t-shaped pier and served as historical exploration marker for Caption John Smith. It is great for kayaking, canoeing and fishermen with nearby creeks and marshes great for a crab catching excursion. A side not, your hand lines and traps are permitted only on the inside portions of the pier. Afterwards, enjoy scenic views of the Patuxent River or plan an event at their picnic pavilion.
If you grow tired of the top 5, keep these other crabbing spots in mind with a few key points while traveling : Sandy Point Park has a marina, boat rentals and pier; Solomons Fishing Pier has restaurants nearby; North Beach Pier does have an $8 crabbing free (non-residents), but has paddle board rentals, a boardwalk and other children amenities; Nans Cove is not as crowded but great for boat launches, kayaks and canoes; Matapeake Fishing pier is a 3-acre, fisherman-friendly park with camera worthy scenes of the bridge, and its pier reaches 100-feet deep.
It is your first time crabbing with the family and you want it memorable for this year’s vacation. Well, we have got you covered with a few tips to keep you looking cool and calm by your favorite crabbing spot.
A few common methods include: crab lining which is done from piers, docks or shorelines near saltwater; crab traps, trotline has the same fundamentals as crab lining but intended for large scale; and dip netting.
Here are a few techniques depending on your choice of the common methods.
A technique for crab lining consists of setting up one or more lines over a large area where you can watch when the crab take a bite on the bait. The movement after their first bite will signal you to lift your line but do this slowly so you can place them on a ground surface that makes it make it easier to net afterwards.
For trot lining this consists of finding a comfortable location for assembling heavy long lines that have attached smaller branch lines, snoods, with shorter lengths that are placed in intervals near the tidal flow. For best results you should steer your boat in the early morning
For trot lining this consists of finding a comfortable location for assembling heavy long lines that have attached smaller branch lines, snoods, with shorter lengths that are placed in intervals near the tidal flow. For best results you should steer your boat in the early morning.
Crab traps are a fan favorite for catching and are made of wire mesh that have folding doors to invite crabs to walk in. You can use bait as well to lure them in. As soon as you see or feel the crab walk in the trap, feel free to quickly lift the cage in order to catch them when the doors fold upward.
A classic version of the methods is dip netting but if you are a first time catcher you may have to master it first. As you move your silent draft boat on shallow areas, you are able to scan crabs and just scoop them up with a net. Although it may be challenging, it can be a deal breaker if done right.
Bait usually consists of chicken necks that are affordable and poultry gizzards and backs, fish heads and parts, razor clams, and squid pieces. The smellier the better is the case for crab bait since the critters have a tremendous sense of smell. But use this to your advantage and you could end up with a cage full.
Some additional gear to create your fishing rigs may consist of nylon twine, buoys and weights, supply of baits added by knots or slips rings and seines if needed.
For hard-shell blue crabs recipe here is Martha Stewart’s version
Need a simple Old Bay steamed blue crab recipe coming up.
Maybe you want to try a hot pot for family style eating, click here.
Rachel Ray has a Maryland style boil with your freshly caught Chesapeake bay crabs and few ingredients.