Fall is the best time to go crabbing, as the crabs are as fat as they are going to get and the pressure from the summertime visitors is off. You can choose several methods to catch your crabs, or you can go on one of several charter operations that will do much of the work for you.
First you must acquire some bait. I prefer bunker heads while others use chicken necks.
I vividly recall stopping by to pick up a crabber friend in Cambridge one hot summer day and stepping out of my truck and encountering the most God-awful smell. When I asked what the heck the stink was, he said ‘bulips.’ I said, “What the heck are bulips?” He said, “Bull lips, you know, lips on a bull.” Seems that was what he used for bait on his trot lines. He said they “went up,” and he put them in the trash.
The type of gear you use will depend on the amount of time you plan to devote to crabbing. Trotlines take quite a bit of time to prepare and deploy. The bait must be tied to the lines, and as a general rule you must be on the water well before sunrise to get your lines out ahead of the other crabbers. Then you must slowly run the boat down the line while your helper scoops up the crabs as they come up. Sounds easy, but it does require a certain level of skill.
I am a handline man myself. I like to go out in the early morning, anchor the boat, and drop a half-dozen or so handlines down to the bottom. I tend the lines scooping up the crabs by dip net. Handlines may also be used from shore. As a kid I used to do this in the Elk and Bohemia rivers.
Crab traps will catch many crabs with very little work. Unfortunately, there are people who rob traps on a regular basis and are difficult to catch. If you set pots from your dock or while you are handlining, you can keep a watch on them.
By Eric Burnley