Crabbing is an outdoor activity that the whole family can enjoy. Kids love the challenge of catching them, and many people love the delicate meat of the crab. If you live near the saltwater, crabbing is a fine and inexpensive way to spend the day.
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According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, female blue claw crabs produce egg masses, known as sponges, from May to October when the water is warm. Crab larvae need saltwater to survive, so the eggs are released where the bays empty into the ocean. Eggs are swept into the sea, where they hatch. The crabs grow quickly, moulting their shells as they grow. After several moults, the young crabs begin migrating back into the bays and tributaries.
Blue claw crabs seek out quiet waters and estuaries. Bays, harbours, brackish rivers and tidal wetlands are typical of the habitat the crabs seek. These areas are the nurseries for many species of shrimp and fish on which crabs feed. Crabs move into these areas during the summer months and are abundant and active by the fall. During the winter months, blue claw crabs bury themselves in the mud and become dormant until spring.
Blue claw crabs need structure in their habitat. This structure can be natural or man-made, but it is essential to the crabs. Whether it is a pile of rocks, a sunken boat or wooden pilings, each piece of structure serves as the basis for marine life. Crabs will make the structure their home, feeding on the worms, barnacles and juvenile fish that inhabit the area.
Man-made walls surrounding harbours, canals and breachways are called bulkheads. Crabs love to hang from wooden bulkheads, and they inhabit the surrounding waters. Piers are typically constructed by driving wooden pilings into the bottom and building the decking on top of the pilings. Crabs can be caught around the pilings. Boaters can catch crabs by reaching areas that others can't. Look for quiet waters and bring your scoop net. Rock jetties attract all sorts of marine life--including blue claw crabs.
Proceed with caution any time you venture out on an old pier or a rock jetty. Wooden piers are particularly susceptible to the marine environment, and boards become rotten. Be sure that any board you step on can hold your weight before going out on it. Rock jetties can also be dangerous. Crab from rock jetties around the time of high tide to avoid stepping on any wet stones. Boulders that are below the tide line will usually be green or dark in colour. They are as slippery as wet ice, so avoid stepping on them at all times.
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