By Micah Leigh, Features Writer
If you are in the mood for a genuine Gulf Coast experience, get yourself some raw chicken wings, some string and a long-handled net then head out to catch some blue crabs for supper. Crabbing is easy, inexpensive and sure to bring squeals of delight from the kids and probably some adults.
“My dad would bring us when I was a kid, but I really started going a lot when Brent and I got married in 2008,” says Natalie Powers of Port Neches. “Before we had kids, we would go once or twice a week.” Powers says they now go as a family as often as possible and that their children Samuel, 6, and Marley, 4, know all about crabbing.
“The kids might complain about how hot it is but the first time they pull one up, they get excited,” she said. “We go crabbing in several places, under the Rainbow Bridge, Keith’s Lake, Sea Rim State Park and at our house on Crystal Beach. We like to get in the boat and explore the Neches River. It’s quality time for our family. We hang out and listen to music. No electronics allowed. And the kids can jump in the water when it’s hot.”
Blue crabs are plentiful in our area, so it’s not unusual for the Powers family to catch up to 20 crabs in a 2-hour period.
“It depends on the time of day,” said Powers. “Crabs like cooler water, so early morning or late evening is a good time to find them.”
Catching crabs is simple. All you have to do is tie a piece of raw meat to a length of string. Think chicken wings, legs or turkey necks. Tie off or hold the other end of the string and toss the bait into the water. If crabs are around, they will start to nibble on the chicken and you will feel tension on the line. Slowly pull the string toward you. When you see the crab, scoop it up with your net. If it’s a keeper, keep it iced down until you are ready to clean and cook. Remember, they are still alive and will run off if not put on ice.
Adults need a fishing license except when visiting a state park such as Sea
Rim, which also has a daily admission fee. According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, a saltwater finishing license is $35 and freshwater is $30. One-day licenses are $11. They can be purchased online at tpwd.texas.gov. None are needed for kids, under the age of 17.
Also, be aware that we do have alligators in our waters and alligators like chicken. If you see a gator, move immediately to another location.
In order to keep a crab, it must measure 5 inches across from “horn-to- horn,” which are the tips on either side of the shell. It must not be egg bearing. Anything smaller or egg bearing is not a legal catch and must be released.
Sade and Ethan Chick moved to Beaumont from Maine and have come to love crabbing.
“We started about 3 years ago,” said Sade. “We learned how to crab at Sea Rim State Park. They supplied us with string, a measuring tool and showed us what to do. They even offer crabbing workshops. If it’s not too hot, we go at least twice a month. We like to go in the winter when crabs are bigger. We have caught some up to 7 inches across. Our daughter, Charli, is 3 years old and she can do it. In fact, she asks to go. She looks forward to it. It’s like fishing, but easier, quicker and more fun.”
Sade and Ethan use different techniques when it comes to watching the line. “We might have 8-10 lines going, “she says. “I grew up smelting (ice fishing) so I like to feel the tension on the line. Ethan drops a line on the ground in a loop. If the loop gets smaller, it’s being pulled out.”
Both families have their favorite recipes when it comes to cooking crabs.
“After we have cleaned them by pulling off the back and hosing out the insides, we will either boil them or fry them in a batter,” said Powers. “We also like to sprinkle them with Tony’s or other seasoning, brush them with butter and put them on the grill for a few minutes.”
Sade and Ethan are both chefs and like to make crab quiche, crab soup, crab sandwiches and dips.
“I’m always amazed at the people who have lived here all their lives and never gone crabbing,” says Sade.
With so many locations to find crabs including Pleasure Island, Port Neches Park, Collier’s Ferry Park and just about any cove along the highway, success is virtually guaranteed. And with cooler weather eventually headed our way, now is the time to go crabbin’.