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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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August 01, 2012

CRABBING THE NORTH FORK OF LONG ISLAND: THEY’RE OUT THERE—NOW!

by Bob Banfelder

There are several methods to crabbing: drop lines, killie rings, pull traps and box traps. I prefer the latter because they draw the most visitors with very little effort. A box trap is a mini motel magnet for crabs. Last week, after just one descent of the wire cage into seven feet of water for a period of several hours, I could have hung out a NO VACANCY sign. Better than a dozen crabs filled the unit on first inspection. From that two-foot cube, I immediately collected the largest of those crustaceans measuring 4½ inches from point-to-point across the carapace [legal size], cleared the cage and released the little guys, added fresh bluefish carcasses into the bottom of the plastic disk-covered bait holder, then reopened for business. I've often toyed with the idea of hanging a VACANCY sign just for giggles. Donna—my fishing partner of forty years—and I had seven sizable blue claw crabs ready for the steam pot. Resetting the trap yielded six more beauties in only a couple of hours.



The area in which I had initially placed the trap was still producing nicely; however, out of curiosity, I moved that wire box trap from one place to another throughout our bays. Wherever I set the trap, I scored nicely. It was like something out of the movie Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks and his business partner Private Benjamin Buford ‘Bubba' Blue, played by Mykelti Williamson. Instead of Buford reciting the infinite ways of preparing shrimp, Donna and I rustled up recipes for family and friends that would give some of the best chefs in the country pause. For example: Long Island crab cakes (never mind Maryland), sautéed crabmeat in wine and garlic, crabs with marinara sauce over linguine, crabmeat salad, crab quiches and soufflés, deviled crabs, crabs gumbo, crab stew, crabs ad infinitum. You've heard of U-pick shrimp whereby you shell your own. Well, for a simple but messy repast, try Hammering Your Way to Heaven; that is, malleting your meal—consisting of freshly steamed crabs spread upon a picnic table covered with brown wrapping paper. It's certainly easy cleanup; meaning the table. You, however, may require a shower . . . unless you have witnessed Gallagher's Sledge-O-Matic appearances on television and know how to prepare for such an event. Bibs or aprons are practically mandatory. And when your guests show up and see the table set with mallets in lieu of traditional silverware, well, your afternoon is sure to be filled with fun. But better serve, eat and finish up early before the mosquitoes finish you off first and foremost.



When transporting crabs some distance, I prefer using an ice chest. Place ice (cubes work best as you want the crabs kept relatively level) in the bottom of the cooler. A five-pound bag should suffice for a small chest. Layer the crabs between sheets of newspaper. This way, if you pick up an occasional soft-shell crab, you can isolate and insulate it from the others as they can puncture and kill their recently molted relative when otherwise thrashing about. Your crabs will stay nice and fresh and secure in their storage container as you travel home. A pair of long-handled tongs and a steamer pot is all you need to start the process. Fifteen minutes is the magic number. Just make sure you have enough water in the bottom of the pot.

The simplest way to start kids crabbing—no, I don't mean, "Are we there yet, Dad?"—is to tie a chicken leg or neck to a string, lower it to a watery floor from a dock, pier or boat . . . and wait. Let the young child's mind wonder and wander off to special places like the movie Finding Nemo, or God forbid, Jaws! After a few minutes, have the child gently lift the line towards the surface, with mom or dad at the ready with a long-handled net should the crabby treasure be hanging there by a thread. Parents, new, too, to the game of crabbing, need little instruction. Carefully maneuver the net beneath the crab as your galvanized son or daughter carefully raises the critter from the water. Later, you may want to introduce the kids to a killie ring. The ring is simply a stiff wire (such as a coat hanger) that is fashioned into a circle. One end of the wire is put through the gills of several small baitfish such as killies, spearing, sand eels, peanut bunker, et cetera. Next, bend both ends of the wire back so as to form a one inch u-shaped lock. Close it, then tie on the string. Whatever method of crabbing one employs, it's for kids six to sixty.

It is unfortunate that certain folks will not bother with blue claw crabs because it requires some effort when it comes to cleaning them. The word effort translates into work. Initially, that is true. However, with a bit of practice, the task becomes practically effortless if you adopt a mind-set. Keep in mind that crabmeat rivals lobster meat. That is a fact. With practice, a newcomer can pick the meat out of twelve nice size crabs in about an hour and a quarter, which will yield approximately a pound of meat. Try and find a market that will even sell you fresh crabmeat in our neck of the woods and waters. You won't! I'm not talking about canned or frozen crabmeat. I'm talking about real fresh crabmeat. When proprietors of several fish markets were pressed for a dollar amount, I was quoted prices between $40 and $60 a pound if they were to hypothetically perform the process, which they flatly refused to do. And that's for the cleaning alone. Add to that the cost of the crab at $3.50 apiece. That's an additional $42 a dozen for a grand total of $82 a pound on the low end of the spectrum. To say that this cost would be prohibitive is certainly an understatement. To say that it would be a form of waterway robbery if the proprietor would even bother to do this for his or her customers is closer to the truth. Now, if you could reel in just one member of your family to help clean a dozen crabs, then we are talking less than three quarters of an hour for a most valuable pound of fresh crabmeat.

Keep in mind that when you order crab cakes or say flounder stuffed with crabmeat in your local restaurant, or even at your local seafood market, for the most part you are getting sea legs; that is, surimi (generally from pollock) in lieu of crabmeat. Many folks know this, yet fall into the trap of kidding themselves—as if they are truly getting crabmeat, especially when ordered at those moderately priced restaurants. If you head for the Chesapeake Bay area, things change drastically; the crab cakes there are the real deal. It's a huge industry. They employ women who can pick a crab clean in a matter of a minute. The question is whether or not it's worth the extra effort for you to enjoy the real McCoy. Give crabbing a try, and I believe you and your family will agree that it most certainly worth your while.


Robert Banfelder
Award-Winning Novelist, Outdoors Writer,
& Creator of Unique Course/Guides
President, Broadwater Books
Cablevision TV Show Host, Special Interests with Bob & Donna
www.robertbanfelder.com





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