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Blue Crabs

By TERRY TOMALIN, Times Outdoors Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 5, 2000

[Times art: Earl Towery]
The taxonomist who first studied the blue crab dubbed the genus Callinectes, meaning "beautiful swimmer." Years later, a scientist added the species name sapidus, meaning "savory."

The true beauty of these savory swimmers is that you can catch them just about any time, anywhere there's saltwater.

All it takes to get started is a piece of string and a rotten fish head -- the stinkier the better. Tie your bait to the string and toss it out. Be sure to use weight to keep the bait from floating. Wait a few minutes, then slowly retrieve the bait. If you're lucky, you'll find a crab attached.

A good place to try for crabs is off sea walls, docks, low bridges and in canals. If you crab from land, or in less than 4 feet of water, you don't need a saltwater fishing license.

Some people like to wade for crabs. All you need is a mesh net with a 4-foot handle. Wait for low tide and walk around in 2 or 3 feet of water. Look for an area with good stands of seagrass. Keep your eyes open and scoop up the crabs as they try to run for cover. This method works particularly well at night with a spotlight or lantern.

Others prefer traps. Any dead, oily fish will attract crabs. Shad and mullet are the baits of choice for commercial crabbers. Some folks use cat food, but chicken backs and necks seem to be most popular. In fact, crabbers once were called "chicken neckers."

Recreational crabbers may take 10 gallons of blue crabs a day, which seems like a lot. But because of the small amount of meat each crab provides, it takes a dozen or more to get a belly full.

If you work traps from a boat, you will need a fishing license. Recreational crabbers are allowed five traps, and they may be worked only by day.

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