Trotline Crabbing

Callinectes sapidus- Beautiful savory swimmer.

3 am departure time, just a cup of coffee and go. Arrive to claim the ONLY boat with a 4 hp yamaha-4 stroke (used 1 gallon of gas the entire day-and it ran the whole day)… loaded up and listened to men curse  as they tried to start-up their engines on a chilly, last of summer days morning. Without a proper way of recording temp I would say water was bath tub warm.

Crabbed the Wye River in MD with traps (about 21) and the trotline (125 baits), using chicken. First area set everything out and worked it —> it was not productive so we moved. Bring it all in perfectly and put it back down, even better this time.

Managed a good amount of catfish (all let go) throughout the day. What was interesting –> I am the trap baiter, so naturally I got a comment from the Capt. that possibly I was not doing it correctly!?!  Whhhhhhaaattt….? I knew something was up… whole meaty, slimy pieces do not just get pulled out from under tight bait trap holders by blue crabs endlessly trap after trap. Hmmmm, it was a mystery. Until we started pulling in the traps and those fat guys  were in the empty trap. Lots of them, big, meaty, well fed catfish.

Trotline grows on you. At first you really need to get a rhythm going with it, but it is productive and quick. Netting needs to be  organized and on the small boat it’s important. Lot’s of fun…. even when the crabbing is slow. Constant movement. Work that net, work that net.

For those who do not know how a troline works:

The basic recreational crabbing trotline is several hundred feet long, with anchors and buoys on either end. Baits are spaced at intervals along the line and the crabber maneuvers the boat along the line, netting crabs that hang on to the baits.

The main anchor holds the trotline in position while the other end is positioned down current and anchored by a lighter weight which allows the rig some movement. The system should hold the trotline in position, but allow it stay aligned with the flow of water.

Many baits are used and any bait that attracts crabs and is durable is fine. Trotliners often favor baits such as brined eel, bull lips, chicken parts, pork or any tough fish. The entire line can be pre-baited and stored in a brine solution or dropped in a bait freezer, or rigged the night before and kept on ice. It is important to bring extra bait and replace baits as needed during the trip.

Crabbing a trotline is fairly simple if the correct environment is available. A good trotline area will be shallow with a muddy bottom and moderate current. Some wind will actually help, and murky water allows crabbers to work longer. Most trotline crabbers prefer to get on the water early and finish before mid-day. Crabs are more active in the morning and less likely to spook when the trotline is moved.

Teamwork is important while crabbing with a trotline. One person steers the boat, while another retrieves the line and dips the crabs.

You will lose some until you get the rhythm and some just slip off. It’s frustrating watching the big ones get away. In no time you get into a groove and everything around you kind of disappears. I like it now. Last time I tried it I was a bit of a disaster doing it, maybe first time and fear of losing all the crabs.

I don’t know why but I think crabs are really interesting to look at, their colors are vibrant, females even more (* an easy way to tell the difference between a male and female blue crab:males have blue claws, and, like most humans, female blue crabs “paint their fingernails” i.e., the tips of their claws are “painted” red!).The best are the big dirty ones with the big meaty claws.

Interesting ifo on the BC:

  • Blue Claw Crabs are among the most heavily harvested creatures on the planet.
  •  Blue crabs are found in brackish coastal lagoons and estuaries from Nova Scotia, through the Gulf of Mexico, and as far south as Uruguay.
  •  Large males can reach 9 inches  in shell width.
  • Average life span 1 – 3 years
  • Females mate once a lifetime

Made it back in time to enjoy the very best crab cakes I have ever had in my entire life and football barely to halftime. Long day and good night sleep.

and now my dreams are filled with my hearts desire…. stripers….