Fiddler crabs are an important part of many fishes’ diet. That’s why they make a great bait for off-shore fishing, fishing in the surf, in mangroves, estuaries, and swamps. They’re the perfect bait for pompano, sheepshead, red drum, black drum, permit, and more.
Catching fiddler crabs isn’t too difficult. Especially if you’ve lived in an area close to the shore where most people use them as bait, you probably have an idea or two on how to do this. But in case you’re new to it, we’ll point out a few methods here.
Where To Look For Fiddler Crabs
The answer’s simple. You’ll find fiddle crabs on beaches, mud flats, grass flats, under piers, and on shores with a gravelly structure.
In muddy grass flats, they’re more difficult to spot and gather in large numbers. That’s because not only do they hide in their holes, the grass also provides extra shelter. That’s why, if you need a copious amount of bait crabs, it’s best to find a mud or sand flat where you can actually see them in large numbers.
Although fiddler crabs don’t particularly like gravelly or rocky environments, you can still find them in such places, if there’s water nearby. But in this case, your best bet is bigger rocks or structure that can provide them with shelter.
Catching Fiddler Crabs – The Methods
Method #1 – Round Them Up
This is by far the best method for catching fiddler crabs by the hundreds. However, it’s best used on mud or sand flats, where you can already spot the crabs in large numbers.
For this method, you’ll need two long sheets of plastic or two thick plastic tubes, a bucket, and a long handle dust pan or a broom for “herding” the crabs.
Step 1. Burry the bucket in the mud or sand, so that its edges are at the same level as the ground.
Step 2. Place the two sheets of plastic on the ground at a right angle so that the bucket is inside the angle. Slightly bury them in the ground as well, so that the crabs can’t pass underneath them. It’s important to use plastic, as crabs won’t climb it as easily. If you’re going to use wooden boards, they’ll be able to climb over them with ease in large numbers.
Step 3. Herd the crabs using the dustpan or broom towards the bucket. The two plastic tubes or sheets will act as barriers for the running crabs, driving them toward the bucket.
Step 4. Once you’ve got a sufficient amount of crabs for your fishing trip, pull the bucket out, as well as the two pieces of plastic.
Method #2 – Dig Them Up
This method is pretty much necessary on grassy marshlands or mudflats where crabs hide in their holes. It’s also the most widely used method, and perfect if you only need a few crabs for a quick fishing trip.
For this, you’ll need a bucket, a trowel, or a small shovel to dig the crabs out.
Once you’ve chosen a location start looking for holes in the ground, or for crabs running toward their holes. Once you’ve spotted one, dig your trowel 5-6 inches close to it and gently scoop the crab out.
Method #3 – Trap’em
This is also a method ideal for grassy marshlands, and of course, for anyone who doesn’t have the time to catch the crabs one by one.
You’ll need a bucket with a lid for it and some bait for the crabs (a piece of stinky fish, shrimp, or squid).
Step 1. Go to the selected area during low tide and bury the bucket in the ground. Make sure its edges are level with the ground so that the crabs can crawl in.
Step 2. Place the bait inside the bucket. Also, add a bit of mud or sand to the bottom of the bucket. It’ll allow them to bury into it and stay fresher for a longer period of time.
Step 3. Cover the bucket with the lid but leave the lid slightly open so that the crabs can enter. This way, you can also filter the size of the crabs that fall into the bucket.
Step 4. Mask the lid with some grass or leaves if you think it’s necessary. Also, mark the place, or look around for some distinctive landmarks to make sure you remember where you’ve set your crab trap.
Step 5. Come a few hours later and get your crabs.
Now, this method doesn’t always yield too many crabs. Other animals or birds can steal the bait. Also, sometimes you may get larger crabs which may not be fitting for bait. But still, it can be a pretty viable method for someone who doesn’t have the time to catch them one by one.
Method #4 – Run & Grab
Similar to #1, this method is also recommended for mud or sand flats where you can see crabs in large numbers. But instead of planting a bucket in the ground and herding them to it, you’ll just basically run where they’re in the largest numbers and grab a bunch quickly before they scatter.
Of course, you’ll also need a bucket or storage unit for the crabs. Also, since you need to move fast, you can’t use too much care when grabbing them. So, a pair of gloves is recommended.
How To Store Fiddler Crabs And Keep Them Alive For Months
Most anglers will catch their bait crabs and use them fresh, during that particular day or the next. However, in case you’ve caught or bought a bigger batch, you can keep them alive for a fairly long period of time.
For this, you’ll need a 25-30 gallon plastic tub or tote storage container. Fill half of it with sand. If possible, bring sand from the same place where the fiddler crabs have been collected. That sand will be rich in microorganisms which the crabs will feed on for a while.
Place the crabs inside the container. Covering the container is not necessary. Also, you can keep it inside or outside if the weather is nice and there aren’t extreme temperatures.
In order for the crabs to stay alive longer, you’ll need to keep them and the sand hydrated. So, you’ll need to spray the sand with water once or twice a week, to make sure that it’s moist all the time. If you can use seawater for this, it’s a plus. Tap water works too, but it’s best to let it sit in a separate container for a day or two so that most of the chlorine in it is eliminated.
Last but not least, you can feed your crabs either dead fish, shrimp, or even dog food. However, this will render the sand smelly, so you’ll need to change the sand after a while. Dried fish food for aquarium fish also works, and you shouldn’t need it in large amounts. This shouldn’t alter the properties of the sand much, and you won’t need to change it.