Friday, 23 March 2007

Crabbing, Crab species.

A common shore crab.

If you go crabbing then the shore crab is the crab you are most likely to catch, its colour varies from brown, green and sometimes orange or red. The crab changes its shell periodically as it grows; the shell does not grow so the crab sheds it and grows another. If the crab is just ready to pop off its old shell it is called a peeler crab ( because you can peel off the shell and the leg coverings). Peeler crabs make good bait for most species of fish, they usually hide under stones and weed at this stage as they are vulnerable to predators. When the shell comes off there is a short period before the new shell hardens, the crab is now a softy or jelly crab and is also excellent bait. You are not likely to catch peeler or soft crabs, you have to hunt them out at low tide. Wrasse and other fish will eat hardback crabs with no bother, some cod are found to be stuffed with them when gutted.

A Velvet Swimming Crab.

As you can see, the Velvet Swimming Crab is a much more handsome fellow than the shore crab. It is covered in a velvet coat that catches the sunlight to make varying colours. The legs are flattened as an adaption to help it swim in the water. These are not as common as the shore crab but they nip just as hard, and they are usually very aggressive...
Stage one in picking up a crab.

Use your index finger to press firmly enough on the crab to stop it scuttling away. Not too hard or you will damage the crab.
Stage two in picking up a crab.

Having got the crab pinned down, place your middle finger and thumb on opposite sides of the shell and pick the crab up. He cannot get at you; if you are a child you can now terrorise little sisters, mothers, grannies etc with the crab, but remember it is a living creature, not a toy. Don't harm it and put it in a bucket and/or put it back in the sea at the end of your crabbing expedition.

Spider crab

This spider crab is about 40cm across and they grow much bigger, you will need a big bucket to keep these in. This example has lost a claw, this is quite common, it will grow a new one eventually. Spider crabs are vey docile compared with other crabs. The shell is spikey and uncomfortable to hold. Spider crabs nip off hooks and make bottom fishing nearly impossible during the summer along large stretches of the south coast. They are edible, most are exported to the continent if caught commercially.

Squat Lobster (Munida rugosa)

You may find a funny looking crab-like creature with very long claws and long antennae, this is the squat lobster. These grow a body about 10cm long but you are likely to catch specimens very much smaller.

.Hermit Crab

The Hermit Crab does not bother to make a shell on its body, it makes a home in a suitably sized whelk shell or similar and must find a bigger shell at intervals as he grows out of each shell. The crab will draw himself right back into the shell using his armoured claws as a defence. This crab makes a top bait for many larger species of fish and for this purpose can be removed easily from its shell by immersing it in fresh water.

There is another common crab, the Edible crab, when I can catch one in a drop net I will post a photograph.