AUGUST BLUE CLAWS
By Rich Johnson
One of the
earliest memories I have of going on my own to fish the salty brine, was blue
claw crabbing. Most kids start off this way as a sort of Independence Day type of fishing
and I still enjoy it today, only now I employ my fishing platform to give me more
mobility. Instead of being limited to the piers, docks and bulkheads of the Islands
South Shore, I can now take the boat and crab the flats and estuaries both day and night.
The boat also allows me to ply the bridge abutments for clinging crabs and
even the tasty soft-shelled blue claws.
comes to using a boat for crabbing, you must remember we are working shallow flats and
grass edges. A flat bottomed or skiff type boat is best. I can get away with my 20-foot
center console because I only draw about 18 inches of water. If you have a much larger
boat, a rental station or livery skiff is perfect. For other tips, one of the premiere
crabbers of our time was my good friend Jimmy DAmbrosio of Smittys Fishing
Station in Broad Channel who passed away a couple of years back.
KILLIE RINGS. For Jimmy and myself, the method of
using a killie rings is the most enjoyable way to go crabbing. This method is most
like real fishing, in that you are actually
baiting a crab, feeling the crab walk away with the bait and then gently hand-lining the
crab to the surface to be scooped or netted. It takes some practice to master, but once
realized, fast becomes the only way to crab. Besides, when using traps from a boat, the
traps end up too close together and when you close one trap, you scare the crabs from the
other traps away, Jimmy said.
ring is nothing more than wire bent into a circle or ring. As a kid I used a metal coat
hanger, nowadays we use plastic or rubber coated tie wire. Take a 12 to 24-inch length of
wire and put two small bends in the end. Now bend the full wire into a circle and hook
together the ends to form a complete circle. You now have a killie ring.
For the most
part, we use killie rings in water depths of 3 to 6-foot or so, sometimes up to 9-foot,
but not much more. As we work the aforementioned flats and estuaries, find a likely
looking hot spot and anchor the boat. Taking your killie ring, open the ends and slip on a
light bank sinker, about 1-ounce. This adds just enough weight to keep the ring on the
bottom, but keeps it light enough for a crab to take it for a walk. In shallow water you
may not even need a weight! Now take the killies you purchased at the bait and tackle
shop, slip a dozen or so killies onto the wire, connect the ends and make sure its
attached to a length of light crabbing block line, kite line or heavy monofiliment.
the killie ring(s) over the side of the boat, evenly spaced apart from each other. Now
its just a waiting game. When a crab becomes interested in your offering, you will
actually see the line come taught as it starts to walk away from the boat. Now
the fun begins. As the crab pulls on the baited ring, you now start to retrieve the line
and killie ring very, very slowly and gently.
not unusual for a crab to drop the offering, only to come back seconds later when he feels
the tension release on your side. This is a cat and mouse game if there ever was one and
makes for some exciting fun and games for kids and adults alike, if you have steady enough
nerves to succeed. There will be plenty of times where the crab drops the bait when he
sees the boat, but if you are steady and gentle with the line, the greedy crabs will
refuse to let go and a quick scoop with a net puts the tasty prize in the bucket.
SCOOP THE BRIDGES. Another method my late friend
Jimmy DAmbrosio employs in crabbing is scooping
the bridges. If anglers work bridge abutments and dock pilings during the time of the last
two hours of outgoing water, they will find hanging crabs. Hangers are crabs that
literally hag to the side of pilings and abutments, sometimes in doubles. This is where
one can find soft-shelled crabs, as the underneath crab of a double is usually the
and work the boat around these places and scoop the crabs off their perch with a long
handles scoop net. Another tip Jimmy passed along is to take the long handles scoop net
and fill the entire handle with a spray can of Styrofoam insulation, you pick up at local
hardware stores. Now if the net falls overboard it floats!
KIDS TOO! This is a great way to get kids involved
and for first timers on a boat, its a great way for all to get their sea legs under
them. Kids love the game of crabbing and what better way for a family to get out, then a
few hours of crabbing, in the peaceful back bays of the tri-state area. See you on the