SINGING THE BLUES
FLORIDA BLUE CRABS: FAMILY FUN, DELICIOUS EATS
Written by: Paul Thurman, PhD
I love crab, all types. Stone, king, etc., it doesn’t matter.
Given a choice, however, I will take blue crab every time. I have very fond memories of wading the flats of Tampa Bay as a kid, filling up a bucket for a crab boil. I still get hungry for them today.
This past weekend was one such time … and I decided it was time to go. I headed down to the coast armed only with a bucket and my crab net to test my skills.
I arrived just after the sunrise, put on my wading shoes and headed out just past the marsh grasses on the shoreline. Within the first five feet of wading, I saw my first crab, a nice one with a shell about 5 inches wide. I quickly scooped it up and placed him in the bucket. I short distance later I had another, then another, then another, and, well, you get the idea.
Less than two hours later, I had almost four dozen, more than enough for a feast. Once home, I fired up the outdoor burner and steamed them with a generous amount of seafood seasoning (you know the one I’m referring to). I then spent the afternoon in the back yard with the dog, picking and eating crab, drinking beer and listening to college football on the radio. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.
If you’re a crab-lover like I am, you have noticed that crabs are not cheap. They can be so expensive I just can’t justify it. Luckily for us here in Florida, blue crab are both abundant and easy to catch. Blue crabs can be found throughout Florida in most coastal areas. They are both predators and scavengers, eating just about any type of fresh dead or live bait. Fish scraps and chicken legs are two of the more common baits used when crabbing.
There are several different methods that can be used to fill a pot with crab. The easiest is trapping, where you simply bait a trap, place it in the water and check it sometime later. What you bait it with is largely a matter of preference, but I’ve always just used the scraps from fish I’ve caught recently, like trout, redfish, etc.
There are limits and regulations on how many recreational traps you can have, and how they must be marked and designed, however, so be sure you do your homework. Traps left unattended are also subject to someone else taking your crabs, so it helps to have a boat to spread the traps out in deeper water away from other people.
Other methods require some sort of crab net, and there are many types available. My favorite has a long handle (5 feet or longer) with a D shaped net. The flat side of the D is pointed out so it can be placed squarely on the ground to avoid the crab crawling under the net. Quality nets can often be found at your local bait shop.
To draw the crabs to you, people will toss a string baited with chicken legs etc. out into the water. Then every so often you SLOWLY pull in the bait and net the crab. Some commercial anglers use a long line with multiple baits tied to it. My favorite method, however, is simply wading along the shoreline and scooping the crabs up with my net.
In my area of north Florida, we have miles of undeveloped coastlines loaded with blue crab, so this method proves very effective.
The one drawback to blue crab is that there is not much meat on them compared to other types of crab. As a
Blue crabs can be found throughout Florida in most coastal areas. They are both
predators and scavengers, eating just about any type of fresh dead or live bait.
result, you may spend more time cooking and picking than you do catching them. Because of this, a blue crab feast can often take all afternoon. Just be sure to have good friends over, good music, and lots of cold beer. Then you won’t mind sitting around the picnic table for a couple of hours. Once picked, there are countless ways to eat crab, with deviled crab, crab chilau and crab cakes being some of my favorites.
As a Florida native, I’m a firm believer that everything is better here.
But if you’re ever in Maryland, do yourself a favor and order a crab
cake. You can thank me later.
I hope this inspires you to get outside and have fun catching crabs.
Good luck and tight lines! FCM