Crabbing on the Jersey shore
We're fortunate to have close friends who live near the New Jersey coast in Avalon and every summer we head south for a few days of relaxation and fun. Yes, we go to the beach and yes, we go to the casino but the highlight of the trip is spending at least a half day boating the coves in the tidal water searching for blue crabs. It’s so much fun even our wives go. Our friend’s next door neighbor Al owns the boat and is a retired Nabisco executive who spends his winters in Florida and his summers in Avalon. His parents once owned a local bakery and he grew up in the area so he knows it intimately. A week ago we joined Al for a day of crabbing.
For anyone who has never done it, crabbing can be one of the most interesting and fun adventures the shore has to offer and you don’t really need a boat to do it. Blue crabs can be caught from piers, boat docks and, where permitted, bridges, and you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to do it, either. All that’s needed is an inexpensive long-handled net for scooping the crabs out of the water, a bushel basket or similar container to put the crabs in when they're caught, a few hand lines which can be bought for just a few dollars at any bait or tackle shop and some moss bunkers or menhaden for bait. Moss bunkers are an extremely oily fish mostly used for bait and, in my opinion, nothing catches crabs like a bunker at the end of the line. The inexperienced crabber will tell you chicken parts make good crab bait, but don’t believe that for an instant. Fishing is fishing no matter what the species and the right choice of bait can make or break an outing. Go with the moss bunker even if you have to go out of your way to find them.
The beauty of crabbing is that the technique is simple and can be mastered in seconds. Simply hook a piece of moss bunker on the end of the weighted hand line and throw it in the water. After waiting a minute or two, slowly bring the line back to the surface and if there is a crab eagerly feeding on the bait bring it in close enough to quickly slip the net under it. Into the basket it goes and the line goes back in the water. Simple. On a good day the six of us can catch a half bushel or more blue crabs in just a few hours.
Catching crabs is only half the fun because once we get back home the cooking is left to me. After showering and opening a cold one I place the crabs into the large pot I bring for the occasion. I set the pot on top of my Coleman stove, also brought along for the same occasion, season them heavily with Old Bay and then put on the top and let them steam. Heaven on Earth, some say. Old people, young people, men, women and young children get a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure out of this simple and fun way of seaside fishing. The day we went we got over six dozen crabs for the evening repast. A setting sun, ospreys on the marsh, a huge tray of steamed blue crabs, cold beer and good friends make summer life good.