I have never seen a kid that wasn't fascinated with sea creatures. On warm summer nights, just after dark, the Gulf Shores beaches are teeming with children and their parents chasing cute little sand crabs. On your next vacation help your kids catch and release a few sand crabs, and the next day help them catch a basket of fierce looking blue crabs. You can turn them loose as you did the sand crabs, or, if you have access to a kitchen while on vacation, you can have them for dinner.
There are many methods of catching crabs. All of them are productive and all of them are fun. More crabs are harvested with crab baskets than any other way. Baskets can be purchased at tackle shops near the beaches for less than $20. You can also find them at some mass merchandisers, but these establishments usually have less selection and less guidance. Where you intend to spend your vacation time is a factor in determining the best basket. Since they are so cheap, it might be a good idea to buy more than one type.
Crabs are found in the back bays and passes during warm weather. During cold weather, you will not find crabs anywhere. Your baskets can be dropped from bridges, seawalls, and docks. You can even wade out from the shore and drop your basket (with a float to mark the spot).
A more basic crabbing methods is a hand line. This is fishing at its most basic-- you don't even need a hook. Just tie a piece of bait to a line. Attach a sinker near the bait, and then wait on a crab to find it. When you see or feel one, slowly pull the feeding crab towards the shore. When he gets close enough, net him. Use a long net, but not so long that it is difficult to control (for most adults less than six feet). If possible, use a net with nylon mesh. It is much more difficult for a crab to crawl out of nylon.
Crabbing at night is very productive. Leave your baskets out overnight and check them in the morning. During the day the most productive time is early in the morning or late afternoon.
Crabs will eat just about anything, so you can use what is handy and cheap. If you've been fishing, use the the parts of the fish that you would otherwise throw away. Pinfish, craokers, finger mullet and other small fish also make good bait. Serious crabbers buy chicken necks and bull lips at the butcher shop. Packaged crab bait can be bought at tackle shops and even over the Internet.
Be very careful when handling crabs. Don't approach them from the front. Grab and hold them from the back. Crab pincers can hurt.
If you plan on cooking your crabs, you are going to need a container to keep them alive. Don't take dead crabs home unless you are very sure when they expired and it wasn't so long ago that they are unsafe to consume. Ask your tackle shop about proper containers.
Blue crabs are abundant on the Alabama coast, but since they are both recreational and commercially valuable, there are laws regulating size and quantity.
Alabama Blue Crab Laws and Regulations
One important thing to remember when you are enjoying other water recreation on the coast: Don't disturb crab baskets that belong to someone else. Some crabbers are very sensitive about having their baskets pulled from the water, even if it's just to satisfy curiosity. It is also against the law and some people do get in trouble