Crabbing on Mecox Bay

brilliant blue crab

How the Atlantic blue crab got its name.

A mouth-watering article in today’s NY Times extols the joys of eating Atlantic blue crab. Photos of cooked crab dishes accompany loving descriptions by John Willoughby and Chris Schlesinger of catching and cooking crabs every September in Massachusetts.

I’ve never gone crabbing myself, but I’m fascinated by the many crabbers who work this stretch of Mecox Bay on Long Island.

crabbing on long island

Crabbing at sunset on Mecox Bay

Mecox Bay’s crabbers encompass a wide variety of ages and ethnicities.

Crabbers in matching shirts.

But the technique is pretty much always the same.

A raw chicken leg or neck is tied to a string and dropped into the shallow waters by the edge of the road.

Crabber checks the many strings he has attached to pilings.

The crabber waits patiently with a long-handled net at the ready to catch the crab after it has locked on to the chicken.  Some people stand right in the water to wait for their prey. Most stay on shore.

Crabber takes a break.

Once the crab has been netted, it is dropped into a bucket or cooler to await its fate.

crab caught in Mecox Bay

Crabs await their fate.

This entire stretch of road is so chicken-scented that Esau the dog doesn’t want to move past it.  It’s also, sadly, often littered with styrofoam meat trays and stripped bones on strings.

chicken bone on string used to catch crabs

A chicken bone still attached to its fishing string.

how to catch crabs

Chicken bone on a string

There are restrictions on crabbing.

crabbing regulations, southampton long island

A flyer listing crabbing restrictions is posted along the road.

But I rather doubt they are closely followed.

Although you might not know it from photographs of cooked meat, Atlantic blue crabs are beautiful animals.

blue crab

Blue crab. Image: Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Earlier this month, I talked briefly with young scientists collecting crabs not for food but for research.

Catching crabs for a research experiment

They used a trap as well as the standard tools of the trade.

They were trapping both blue and green crabs for an experiment to compare the mussel-eating habits of the two animals. All crabs would be kept without food for 24 hours, so that they were all hungry. They would then be given mussels and their consumption rate compared.

Watch this amazing little video, and you will see that crabs did not evolve their claws just so we humans could eat them.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2012, Fall, In the Country, Seasons, Wildlife/Natural History

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12 Comments on “Crabbing on Mecox Bay”

  1. Mr. Mantooth Says:

    nifty video

  2. theresagreen Says:

    That’s an interesting post. The blue crabs are impressive and rather beautiful. ‘Crabbing’ is a fun thing that holidaymakers here do with their kids, baiting hooks with pieces of bacon and dangling them in the water of the harbours. They only catch little ones though and then throw them back, so I imagine a queue of little crabs waiting for a bite to eat, getting thrown back in the water and getting back on the end of the queue……

  3. Fascinating how nature’s design is built for purpose. Great video footage – strength of claws!

  4. The photos you include could be Lavalette, NJ. where I saw people of all ethnicities crabbing along the bay.
    However when I was a kid, summering in Cape Cod, we used to fish from a rowboat outfitted with an outboard motor. We used fish heads from fish, we’d caught the previous day, as bait
    We’d tie them on a string and haul them up to be scooped up in a net.
    Some days we had so many, the bottom of the boat was full and we had to keep our feet up on the seats.
    And just to think, I’m a vegetarian now.

  5. mthew Says:

    At a crabbing spot I know in Mass., the snapping turtles rush towards people on the bridge because they think they’re bearing chicken parts. Meanwhile, on the western end of L.I., we’ve got the blues, too, both crabs and mussels (curious that the video calls them “black mussels”).

  6. We also do scientific research on blue crabs. Part of this work is done in Puerto Rico, where the crabs are caught in local lagoons. Blue crabs are so voracious and aggressive that it’s often sufficient just to stick into the water a piece of wire, without any bait at all. The crab will attack it and cling to it even when it’s pulled out of the water…

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