I first crabbed when I was about 12 years old. My friends father took us out crabbing in his boat, I was thrilled as I pulled in my first crabs, the many colors, the fierce snapping claws, the trap rattle as the creature banged around trying to escape, what a thrill on that hot summer day in Matts Landing, NJ.
We caught about 25 crabs, and we had my friend, his sister, his dad, and his mom to eat them. We needed more. We were getting ready to leave with our small catch, when another boater stopped by and gave us almost a whole bushel to take home.
Wow ~! I still remember watching Mr. Siligato cleaning the live crabs. He was brave. He had these thick work gloves, and would grab the angry crabs while they were alive and kicking, and tear them open, then he would wash out the insides, and send them in to Mrs Siligato to cook. She cooked up some spaghetti and sauce, and she steamed the crabs in water and oil with a lot of spices. I was ready to eat my first crabs ever. MMMMMMMMM, I went nuts, the taste of that sweet white crab meat had an impression on me that has lasted for these last 30 years.
My first adventures began as a land crabber. There was a spot in Matt's Landing NJ, where two ponds were connected by an underground pipe. When the tide changed, the water traveled through the pipe. The pipe was just big enough for me to crawl down in and walk through it, bending over a little. This could only be done when the water was low. When the tide was dead low, the incoming tide would sweep crabs through the pipe into the main pond. I had a plan.
My favorite land story. One day in the summer when I was 17, I timed it so I arrived at the pipe between the ponds as the tide was just coming in. When I pulled up with a friend of mine, there were about 20 people lined up along the shore with their traps in the water waiting for the crabs to come in. We pulled up, jumped out of the truck, and I made my way into the pipe. My friend stood above with a bushel basket and an empty net. The tide began to really move, the crabs were sweeping in, and I was netting 4 and 5 nice crabs a sweep. I handed my filled crab net up to my friend as he handed me an empty net, and then he dumped the crabs in the basket, as I swept up more crabs.
The poor folks on the shore were looking more and more intently as I swept up net full after net full of blue claws. The tide picked up more and more speed, the pipe began to fill, I didn't have much time, but I kept sweeping those crabs. ( my first experience with crab greed!) We filled the bushel basket in about 40 minutes, the pipe was almost filled. I was still sweeping away, when I started feeling a bump here and there against my back and shoulders.
Suddenly I realize I was no longer in the pipe alone. About 10 shore crabbers were in the pipe sweeping away. But alas, they were to late. The pipe was almost filled, they waited to long to cash in. I climbed out of the pipe and scampered up the bank to my truck, we hoisted our bushel of large blue claws into the back, and drove away as the then angry looking crab mob stared at us. They looked as if they could not decide if we just stole their crabs, or if they should all go out and by a crabbing net.
We didn't hang around to find out, besides we were hungry. A friend of mine from Dividing Creek showed me an area for crabbing in that town. I had never crabbed anywhere but Matts Landing on the Maurice River. The spot he showed me was a huge shallow pond on Maple Ave. The pond was fed by a creek. That creek led to lots of other creeks and ditches, and they were all fed by the Delaware Bay.
Over the years I explored different areas of those creeks. I learned that the tide is always moving somewhere, if it is dead in one spot, its moving somewhere else due to the different depths of the ditches. Even though I have crabbed many years in these areas, there are many more sections to crab and explore. Almost every trip I learn something more. But I found if you keep moving around you will catch crabs. One of my favorite ways to crab is to troll, I have found two ditches, that have very high banks of mud. At dead low tide, every now and then, I find hundreds and hundreds of Blue Claw Crabs out of the water in he mud. Some are softshells, some are papershells, and some are hard. I eat them all. The boat moves slowly along, and the crabs are netted.
But wait, its not as easy as that. Some crabs take off like a shot, you gotta be quick! The boat is always on the move, and you have be on target to get your crab. Some crabs just come flying out of the meadow grass and down the bank. Some crabs just sit there. You grab them quick. Some burrow into the mud, and you have to poke them, then net them when they come out and head for the water. Some crabs hang on at the water line, and some just below.
Crab trolling is a lot of fun. It is rare, but what a trip! I ran in to an old man one day that made and sold traps for some extra income. The traps were not like the kind you buy in a store. They were a little bigger with weights on the doors, and a weight in the center with a pin to hold the bait. The strings were stronger, and tied up just right. I bought several traps, and they were fantastic. They would handle the hard current, and I caught most of my crabs when the tide was moving fast.
One day this old man went on to his reward. I got out one of the traps I bought from him and studied how it was made. It took a little practice, but I soon improved upon his style of trap. I made them extra sturdy. I made and sold about 60 traps to friends and other creek crabbers. I found it took up to much time, so now I only make a few here and there. I have never seen another trap like this. It is a 4 door, but the magic size seems to be 12x12x6, with a 24' line attached. Eating those critters: Mrs. Capt. sometimes bakes crabs with 2 different types of Italian cheeses melted in the bodies. She adds some garlic and olive oil, she cracks the claws and pours a little spaghetti sauce on the claws. Yummy!!
The Capt. oil steams crabs. I use a some water and olive oil, with a big pot. I put in garlic, salt, pepper, a little wine vinegar, red pepper, etc. The cleaned crabs are put in, and the steamed splatters the olive oil droplets around and coats the bodies with an olive oil sheen, and the spices spread around the crabs as well. Sometimes I add some Italian bread crumbs with cheese to the mix. There is a screen at the bottom of the pot that keeps the crabs out of the water. The water must be at a hard boil before the crabs are put in. I steam for 11 to 12 minutes. I like to pass my fresh cooked crabs around to friends and family. Sometimes I even trade down for some fish. willie1.htm
Willie - Crab Nut