If you have never had blue crab before, you don’t know what you’re missing out on! It is one of my favorite foods to get a group of friends together and gorge on. Ironically, it is also rather hard to catch.
I’ve been crabbing with my extended family for years. I’m still learning new tricks, but here is the culmination of 27 years of experience.
Catching Maryland Blue Crabs
Before you can eat them, you have to get your hands on the little buggers. And while we may buy blue crabs occasionally, trust me when I say that the ones you catch yourself taste the best.
In my experience, there are 2 ways to catch blue crab — from the pier or from a boat. Let’s start with the pier, since it’s what I learned first.
Pier crabbing involves tying some twine around one of the posts of the pier, generally referred to as “moorings”. You know, the poles that boats tie their ropes to in order to not move around by the dock. Tie some bait to the other end of the line, throw it out into the water, and you’re all ready to catch some blue crab!
The pier method is great for beginners and younger people. It also tends to yield less blue crab.
They also sell crab traps (sometimes called pots) that you can throw off of piers. The traps are a cage filled with bait, with a catch — crabs can get in, but they can’t get out.
My favorite method is by far the trot line. Go get your boating shoes!
Blue Crabs, Trot Lines, And Boats
Any serious crabber runs a trot line.
A trot line is a length of rope usually about 500 to 1000 feet in length with bait (we use bull lips) tied every 5 feet or so. Personally, I prefer to use a 700 foot line, but feel free to use whatever length you are comfortable with.
Attached to either end of the line is a weight and a buoy. Several bricks tied together serve nicely for weights, and our buoys consist of empty orange laundry detergent bottles. Be sure to have something heavy for the weights so you can tighten the line. Otherwise you’re going to be very miserable!
You will also need a roller mechanism to feed the trot line over as your boat moves along. We constructed a cheap one out of PVC pipe and a plastic roller. It’s been working great for years.
All you need to do is go to one end, hoist the weight up, and throw the line over the roller. Then set the motor to a low speed and catch those blue crabs!
Once your run is done (and you hopefully have some crabs in that bushel basket) you’ll need to tighten the line. If you don’t tighten it, you may find yourself doing ‘S’ shaped maneuvers rather than running a straight line. It’s not fun. To tighten the line, hold on to one end and run the motor, letting go when you can feel a good amount of tension.
Rinse and repeat, and you’ll have some blue crab in no time!
Steam Those Blue Crab Up!
We use a Coleman stove and a big pot. The key here is to make sure the actual crab are not touching the water, but are raised up above it. Remember, we are steaming crabs, not boiling them!
The recipe I like to use is a mixture of vinegar, water, Old Bay seasoning, and a secret ingredient. Beer!
Set a timer for 20 minutes once you see a good amount of steam coming out from under the lid. By that time, your crab should be cooked, red, and ready to eat! Enjoy!
And, just in case, here’s how you pick the crab.