By Capt. Joe Kent
Crabbing or crab fishing has steadily improved over the past few years and so far during 2016 we are experiencing one of the best recreational crabbing season in years.
As a child I recall many pleasant days dropping crab lines baited with bones from the discarded meat of a butcher shop close to where I grew up. My family would take the bait to a pier along Clear Lake, Kemah, Clifton By the Sea and other spots and drop them in the water waiting for big blue crabs to come along.
In those days, owners of private fishing piers and docks rarely resisted families and kids using their piers for crabbing and fishing. That is where I developed my passions for fishing and crabbing.
In those days, mid-1950s to mid-1960s, we would take a wash tub and gunny sacks, or tow sacks as they also are called, to the piers and after a couple of hours or so during the early morning or late afternoon we would have a big assortment of blue crabs to take home and boil for dinner the next evening.
Today the situation is a bit different as kids are not as exposed to this fun sport as they used to be. One reason is the lack of public fishing and crabbing piers and the other is the concern over liability on private piers should an injury take place.
Prior to the mid-1960’s, those were not issues as there were plenty of public fishing piers and private owners were not as concerned over liability. Obviously that has changed.
Crabs were everywhere for easy taking until the mid-1980s when two things affected crabbing. First was the over shrimping of Galveston Bay and along with it the bycatch mortality of crabs and small fish. The second was a virus that spread among male blue crabs that rendered them sterile.
Those factors had a big negative effect on crabbing for years. Two to three years ago we started noticing an improvement in the size and quantity of blue crabs around the Galveston Bay Complex and the momentum has continued.
While fin fish have been affected by the spring floods of 2015 and 2016, crabs seem to be resilient to the change in salinity and have continued to fare well all over the Galveston Bay Complex.
Several longtime recreational crabbers, all using crab lines and dip nets (long handled crab nets), have reported catches resembling what they remember from the late 1970’s.
The cost of equipment is minimal, with the crab net likely being the most expensive at a cost around $10.
Commercially prepared crab lines with weights and pins for attaching the bait go for less than $2 usually and the bait can be anything from fish heads from cleaned fish which cost very little to the premier crab bait of chicken necks costing a few dollars.
Crabbing is a fun, family sport that can be enjoyed by all members of the family including all age groups. From youngsters to grandma and grandpa, all can enjoy watching the crab lines and when a crab starts pulling the bait away, we all enjoy the excitement of going for the net and dipping up a beautiful blue crab.
If you haven’t taken the family crabbing, the whole group is missing out on a wonderful experience that has some excellent table fare as its reward.