If you regularly target permit, tarpon, bonefish, cobia, or redfish, you probably already know that silver-dollar size crabs make up a large portion of these great shallow-water game fishes diet. The crunchy crustaceans I am referring to are blue crabs and brown crabs, the latter of which are commonly referred to as ‘pass crabs’ because they are most often seen swimming in and out of local passes.
Almost identical to blue crabs in appearance, pass crabs only grow to approximately four-inches in width. Both crustaceans are members of the Portunidae family of swimming crabs due to their paddle-shaped posterior legs. Although these crustaceans appear quite similar, they do have different behavioral patterns and routinely stage in various habitats.
Blue crabs generally reside along the bottom, scurrying around grass flats and dark muddy substrate, while pass crabs are most comfortable swimming or drifting along the surface. Pass crabs can often be spotted at night under lit brides and docks, and also drifting along in the current with patches of sargassum during the daylight hours.
It’s important to keep in mind that mid-summer outgoing tides have a major impact in determining the crab’s migration pattern. Blue crabs are particularly known for seasonal movement as the females leave the safety of their estuaries in search of their male counterparts. Once they have performed the blue crab boogie-woogie, the soon-to-be mothers head offshore so they can more efficiently release their clutch while males are left to fend for themselves, eagerly waiting for the next spawning cycle. Pass crabs have a similar breeding pattern, however in this crustacean’s life-cycle; both males and females primarily live offshore in high-salinity temperate zones.
Both blue and brown crabs are primarily used by inshore anglers targeting tarpon and permit, however, they can be used to cash in on a multitude of game fish in Florida’s nearshore waters, not excluding slot-size snook, gator trout, sheepshead and big black drum. I like to fish pass crabs whole since they are smaller in size, while large blue crabs that are cut in half have provided me with a variety of excellent piscatorial pay dirt. To hook a live crab, pierce the hook through either the corner of the carapace or through the bottom of the carapace and up through the top of the shell. Because live crabs are particularly fond of pinching their adversaries, as well as highly inclined to take cover in the bottom, many anglers remove one claw in addition to the back paddle legs. This presentation effectively keeps the crab in the strike-zone while at the same time allowing curious game fish an opportunity to easily locate the irresistible offering.
Many Florida residents are familiar with crabbing for table fare, however, many dedicated anglers catch blue crabs for their angling pursuits as well. There are several methods that are highly effective. The easiest approach for anglers is the crab trap method. Crab traps can be purchased at your local tackle shop and they all have similar designs which allow the crawling crustaceans to enter through a funnel, but not exit. Put your choice, flavorful bait in the trap, let it marinate and check routinely. Catching pass crabs is much easier, and simply involves spotting the quarry on the surface as they drift in and out of area inlets and passes where they are scooped up with long-handled dip nets.
If you are not interested in catching your own crabs, these prime baits can be purchased from bait and tackle shops, however, they are far and few between in the southeastern reaches of the state. During the summer tarpon run, bait retailers along the West Coast and nearby Florida Keys stock up on these crunchy treats as they are many anglers first choice when targeting explosive silver kings.
Sometimes the conditions are not optimal to catch your own crabs, and area bait shops may be faced with the same dilemma. If the game fish you seek are hungry for a crispy meal and you can not locate live crustaceans, you may want to tie on a proven artificial. One of the most life-like crab imitations I have found is the CW Crab. This artificial lure is a hard-bait and perfectly mimics the swimming pattern of portunid crabs. The CW Crab is available in three color patterns with sinking, suspending and floating variations. When live crabs are not an option, give the CW Crab a try and “Be the Crab.”
An excellent alternative would be one of the many soft-plastic crab imitations currently on retailer’s shelves. Berkley, D.O.A, Exude and RipTide are just a few of the numerous manufacturers producing lifelike imitations – some of which smell and taste real!
Light to medium spinning or baitcasting tackle:
|< Prev||Next >|