Instead of letting tasty crustaceans come to you, go after big crabs this way
Nets, traps and other methods can easily catch numbers of crabs, but I really don’t have any interest in catching small or medium-sized crustaceans. So instead of waiting for a crab to come to my bait, going out to hunt the crab is my preferred method.
On sunny days, I go to the clearest, moss-filled marsh bays, I can find with my small, aluminum flat boat. These brackish water crabs are the sweetest tasting ones, in my opinion.
I look for bays with 1½ to 3 feet of water, with the bottom being a mix of about half moss and half hard mud. When the bottom is all moss, the crabs are extremely tough to spot. And areas coated with scum make seeing the crabs much more difficult.
Oftentimes the ponds are filled with monster crabs, which seem to like shallow, hot water. Nearly half the crabs spotted are large selects — maybe small crabs stick to the muddier water to avoid predators. The bay crabs seem to be very fat and full, compared to bayou crabs, which are often skinny with less meat.
Polarized glasses are key
A small, aluminum boat works great because it gives you the stability to stand in the front and go into very shallow water. My 10-foot flat works great either solo or with a friend.
To get the best view, polarized glasses to see through the sun’s glare are a must. The mirrored, coated lenses let in less light, which makes seeing crabs more difficult — so light grey or amber lenses work best. Also, standing or sitting high is important so a long paddle is needed.
Also, I often see redfish — so I keep a pole or my fly rod ready to cast out to any tasty fish I see during the trip.
I prefer to slowly paddle with the wind in my face, which helps keep the boat from running over the crabs. I often spot several large crabs together, but they usually won’t leave unless the boat runs over them.
To catch these massive crabs, I use a simple rod and reel with a ½-ounce jighead baited with a slab of catfish skin. (Any bait will work, but the catfish skin covers the crab’s eyes well and is very tough, and lasts for dozens of crabs.)
Reeling them in
Once I spot a crab, I toss the bait out in front of it. Then, I stick my paddle in the mud to anchor while the crab begins to feed. If the boat is moving with wind and current, the crab often gets pulled loose from swimming too fast or from sharp jerks caused by wave action. The crab can see the boat, so if it’s not allowed to get a good taste of the bait, it’ll swim off and hide for good.
While the boat is anchored, I slowly lift the crab from the bottom, with my net ready to scoop it up with my other hand. Crabs can strongly hold to grass, but once they’re in the water swimming while feeding on the bait — it’s game over.
The best part is not having to waste time or effort dealing with small to medium-sized crabs.
I much prefer a few dozen jumbos over a limit of 12 dozen mixed crabs, anyway. Though in the bays — when you spot a crab every 30 to 100 yards of slow paddling — a limit of large crabs in a day is very possible if you want that many.
So if you’re looking for a fun workout to make crabbing more of a sporting challenge — where you actually hunt for the crabs instead of letting them come to you — try “sight-crabbing” for monster blues in the clear mossy bays along the coast.