Fending for myself on the gulf coast

Posted by on July 22, 2011 at 5:28 pm.

The mesh of the net wasn’t tight enough.

On Saturday, I went crabbing with some friends near Cedar Key on the gulf coast. We went with the goal of catching 20 blue crabs (5 a piece) of edible size, and two of the other actually had some experience fishing for crabs, but we didn’t know what we were doing — not really.

And that’s how I ended up sitting on the this bench at the dock, net with too loose of a mesh beside me, trying to get the crab untangled. It was small enough to fall through the mesh, but had decided it would be better if it put each leg through a different hole and then hold on with its pincers. Too small to eat, the true angler among us was going to use this crab as bait.

Everything was going fine and I was about to get the last of the legs untangled, when I heard the snap, followed by a sharp pain in my left thumb. The asshole got me.

Fortunately, it was a grazing blow that left a small, but deep, gash instead of resulting in some hip new ringwear. Also fortunately, I had just finished untangling all of the crab’s legs, so that when I jumped up in surprise and threw the net away from me, the crab fell on to the dock. There was a valiant effort from the sea creature as he walked sideways (which was pretty cool to see in person) toward the edge of the dock and freedom.

Marisol stomped it. All she wanted it for was bait, so it needed to be killed anyway. In hindsight, we probably could have stomped it before I used my bare hands to untangle its legs. For the rest of the day, I paid more attention to where I left my hands while I was digging crabs out of the net.

The process of catching crabs is actually pretty simple (go ahead and giggle). You tie some raw chicken onto a string and throw it into the water. Once a crab starts eating your bait, you pull the string in slowly until it’s within netting distance and you scoop it up. Google comes up with a lot of results to prepare the amateur for every aspect of crabbing, and we got most of the information we needed from the wonderful interwebz.

By the day’s end, we managed to net 21 crabs of edible size (or close enough that we were going to cook them). We stowed them, grabbed dinner at a beach-side restaurant and had some drinks before heading home.

At an ice cream place we hit up on the walk back to the car, we had a shopping experience straight out of The Twilight Zone. The dude serving the ice cream was so hyper and intrusive that he appeared to be on at least one kind of regulated narcotic, so much so that Marisol was too scared to actually order anything from him. On top of that, after he scooped our ice cream, he and the man behind the register walked out the door, leaving no employees behind the counter. We played around for about 10 minutes debating leaving without paying or trying to find them. Finally, an employee came from the other room, just as confused as we were about the abandonment issue.

Our plan involved making the drive home and having a crab boil the following day, but it was here that we made our greatest mistake. In our excitement to hit the water, we all had apparently skimmed the section of the crabbing sites about how to store the creatures. It was discovered the next day that we had killed them in a way that was inadvisable and that we would not be having a crab boil.

Robbed of the satisfaction of eating our haul, I heard the nagging voice of my father in the back of my head telling me to read the directions carefully. Dejected, I went to a local restaurant for lunch. It turned out to be not so bad: their crabs were bigger than ours.

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