Catch a crab

crabbingEnjoyable waterfront activities span a large spectrum, from thrilling sports such as surfing and riding personal watercrafts to leisurely afternoons sunbathing on the beach. For those who prefer relaxing by the water but still seek engagement, a perfect answer for you or a group is crabbing.

Crabbing is easy, simple, and fun for the individual or the whole family. With minimal equipment, crabbing can be an inexpensive, but satisfying outing.

Around Hilton Head Island, the easiest places to crab are at the numerous public piers or near harbors, according to Carly Mourer, captain of Crabber J II, a local crabbing charter boat.

“A lot of the fishing boats come in and drop their carcasses off the side, so the crabs always have a constant meal,” said Mourer. “Crabs are scavengers. They’ll eat anything.”

Before heading out or deciding what equipment to use, consult with S.C. Department of Natural Resource’s rules and regulations. The SCDNR website states that any individuals ages 16 or older harvesting marine life, including crabs, must purchase a state fishing license unless they are fishing from a public fishing pier and are using three or less lines or traps.

For those who intend on returning their catch back to the water, no license is required. And for the casual crabber, that’s Mourer’s recommendation.

Catch a crab“If you’re going out to just have fun, one hour is plenty,” said Mourer. “If you’re looking to catch to eat, it’s really a two-day affair… and you’ll still need a hamburger (to be full).”

Crabs live on the sea floor, so the shallower the water, the better. As for equipment, Mourer said the cheapest effective route is simply a piece of string with some chicken attached to the end. “The stinkier the better,” said Mourer.

For those without scrap chicken readily available, try investing in small crabbing nets that can be purchased at any fishing or outdoors store. For more advanced technology, Mourer suggested metal cages that open on the sides, as you place the bait in the middle to attract the crabs. For both the nets and cages, make sure they reach the sea floor and keep checking your string, nets or cages every few minutes.

“You need to make sure it’s weighted down, because they are bottom dwellers,” said Mourer.

To keep a crab, they must measure 5 inches across and must be male. Mourer suggested two ways to check its sex. The easier, though not foolproof, indicator is claw color – blue for males and red for females. To make sure, look at the crab’s underbelly. If it has a flap the shape of an apron, it’s a female; if the flap is the shape of a golf tee, it’s a male.

For those interested in taking a charter crabbing tour, the Crabber J II takes between two to four expeditions a day. Each tour lasts one hour and 45 minutes, with about 45 minutes for strictly crabbing. For more information, call (843) 422-5110.