Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Crabs

The first time my father took me crabbing I was about 5 years old. He would rent small boats and we would go to Barnegat Bay off the coast of New Jersey. We had maybe 6 crab traps, and depending on the time of the season we would catch males or females. Pregnant females were illegal to keep, and anything under 4 inches had to be thrown back. Who would eat those anyway right?

We would catch crabs called spider crabs sometimes. Those were the ugliest things you could even imagine. My dad, being the environmentalist he was (snort) used to jam his knife through them and toss them overboard so they wouldn't hit the traps and steal the bait again. It was horrifying, but I got used to it.

We would stay out for hours, and usually would bring home about 30-40 crabs. Once we got home we would have a feast for the entire street, with newspapers on the table and beer for the adults. Dad would give me sips and I loved it. I have been a beer drinker since I took my first steps for my dad's can of Pabst. Ick right? I didn't know any better, and apparently neither did he. 

After my dad died when I was 11 my best friend's dad took over the job of taking me crabbing. He actually had a boat, and we went to the same areas where my dad and I went. We also flounder fished while crabbing, and I caught two my first time trying. It was so exciting, but her dad made me kiss the first fish (apparently a tradition for the first fish you ever catch) and I got scales on my lips. No one told me about them and when I got home I found them. Awesome.

When I was 22 I decided to start crabbing again, and I bought my own traps and lines, and would go to the bait shop to buy squid for bait. I took a few friends with me, and that's when it got interesting. They had never been before. Never eaten crabs. Never been on boats even, and I wasn't sure how things would go. We got to the boat rental, I handed over my cash, and we got in. I hadn't driven a boat since I was 10 years old, and I was freaking out. I managed to follow the channel markers to a good spot, and we threw down our traps. We had a styrofoam cooler to put our catch in, and we got going. I'd say we caught about 20, which wasn't a bad haul. We threw seaweed on top of them to keep them wet, and then it was time to go back. One of my friends decided he wanted to try driving, and I let him. That's when a thunderstorm came up, and we needed to book it. He was going so fast that he totally didn't see a buoy and ran over it. I was sitting on the back rail of the boat, and I turned around and the buoy popped up behind me like Jaws. It was insane. I took over the boat after smacking him upside the head.

After that little trip I never crabbed again. I have no idea why. I also didn't have crabs again until my wedding in 2005. I was 34 years old. 12 years without a crab. It was very depressing. For our wedding we rented a room at Woody's Crab Shack in Elkton, Maryland. If anyone reading this ever gets to Maryland I suggest you go. I am planning to buy some this summer from a local seafood store, but it won't be the same as eating your own catch. Maybe sometime in the next 12 years I can get out there again. I really want to teach Livvie how.



7 comments:

Dagny said...

Great stories, and I am glad you have such wonderful memories.

Crabbing sounds like a blast!

Em said...

I know nothing about crabbing and I actually don't like eating crabs but it does sound fun!

Woodrow said...

I've never crabbed either, but I'd like to. Teach me how. I wonder if it works the same on the gulf coast?

Debbie said...

I saw your post and thought how sad. Look at all that you miss from one bad experience.
I saw a really neat method of catching crab that doesn't involve a boat. You might try that for you and the family. Have a look at SportyCrabTraps.com - its a cool idea. You could be back to crabbing in no time.

Cyn said...

What a nice memory to keep. I think you should share that with Livvie.

Michele said...

Cool! I love that story! You should go crabbing again when Livvie is old enough. I have fond memories of fishing with my family.

I caught a couple little crabs by accident when I fished in florida in the late 80s. they'd grab onto my bait with their claws, the little buggers. Too small to eat so I'd throw them back. But I remember people on the pier, with crab traps. Back then I didn't have the guts to try it, because I didn't know how to cook 'em.

Julie said...

Thanks everyone. I appreciate it.

Woodrow-

You open the trap, tie bait to the bottom of it (dead squid, raw chicken, whatever) and then you tie the trap to the boat or pier and throw it into the water. Wait awhile and then pull the trap up. If there are crabs in it you dump them out into your container and then the fun part comes. You pick them up to measure them to see if they're legal. Anything legal goes back into the container to keep. The small ones go back into the water to steal your bait again.