Have fun, stay legal targeting blue crab

As the local saltwater areas become warmer, some super fun outdoor activity picks up. We are fortunate to be in an area where the blue crabs are plentiful. Historically, the pursuit of these tasty crustaceans has been a family adventure. Cold weather means cold water, and the crabs don’t move around much. With the type of winter that has just passed the water was chilled for quite a time. That trend has been changing and with the warmer water comes some really fine times to head out to the areas where the crab action is.

Blue crabs seem to be not only in saltwater, but also in nearby brackish water and even in freshwater that is near saltwater areas. So what type bait and equipment will most consistently produce good numbers of the big blue crabs? Crabs will feed upon any meat that is in their area. The use of chicken or turkey legs, wings or thighs is popular and an excellent choice. Perhaps chicken or turkey necks are even more popular than the other offerings. It is a good idea to remove the skin and fat from the bait so that it doesn’t have a tendency to float. Baited crab lines must be on the bottom in order to be consistently productive.

The commercial crabbers will use all sorts of fish in their traps. Shad, the remains of cleaned larger fish, and such things will attract crabs. Fish heads do work well for sport crabbing, should there be some available. Again any type bait that contains meat will take crabs.

The bait should be tied to a simple piece of string. The cotton line that is available in all hardware stores for a couple of dollars is ideal.

Whenever you tie on the bait, if there is a current, I recommend the use of enough sinker to keep it on the bottom. Old nuts or bolts work well. Be sure to use enough line so that the crab can pull it out a little ways once he takes it. Too much pressure or resistance will sometimes cause him to release the bait.

Crab traps that are approved and tagged are legal for sports crabbers. The regulations for their use are published in the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Outdoor Annual. These are available whenever fishing license are sold and at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department office on Eastex Freeway in Beaumont.

Only six crab traps per person may be fished by each non-commercial crabber. There are also a sunrise and sunset restrictions. These are all listed in the annual. Some anglers will set out some legal crab traps while they are going fishing. Then by checking them from time to time, it is possible to end the day with a big mess of some great table fare.

All of the aforementioned legal crabbing methods will produce crabs, but the string and bait technique is by far the most fun and more popular. When the crab takes the bait, all that is necessary is to slowly pull it toward you. Be sure to have a long handle dip net at hand. Better yet, allow someone else to net the crab while you slowly pull it in. Sudden jerks or pulling it in too fast may cause the crab to turn loose. It seems that for some reason, youngsters are more apt to get the crabs near enough to net. I have rarely come across a youngster that doesn’t enjoy crabbing. There will be a lot of excitement and comment when they are experiencing some fast activity. Put out several baited lines for faster action.

Anglers who are required to possess a fishing license must have one when crabbing. A saltwater stamp is also necessary in most cases. Even if the adult only touches the string or container of live crabs, he or she must have the license and stamp.

Believe it or not, there is a size requirement for blue crabs. Blue crabs must be at least 5 inches at the widest point of the body. Five percent by number of undersize may be retained for bait, but they must be kept separately. It is illegal to retain egg bearing or sponge crabs or females with the apron removed. There is, however, no number limit for legal blue crabs.

Any place in the local bays, rivers, and bayous where there are rocks, bulkheads, shell or jettys are crab haunts. Boat ramps, fishing piers, weirs in the bayous are good crab catching areas. Bridges are also good spots, but don’t block traffic or crab illegally from the bridge.In my opinion, the blue crab’s flavor is second to no other seafood from our saltwater areas. If you would like to enjoy a family outing, go crabbing.

Tune in to KSET 1300 at 6 p.m. on Thursdays for Billy Halfin Outdoors and listen to The updates daily at 7:25 a.m., 12:25 p.m. and 6:25 p.m.