As summer starts to draw to a close there are only a couple of weeks left of the summer holidays and for most youngsters they will be back next week.
For then Cley the Norfolk Crab and his friends can relax. After weeks of being hauled up and down the quay side, tipped into a bucket, counted and then thrown back, life may then turn back to some sort of normality where the only sport they will take part in will be the theft of lug and ragworm, squid and mackerel bait off hooks from unsuspecting fisherman in search of late summer bass.
Here are a few facts about the shore crab, carcinus maenas. Their usual habitat is rocky beaches and shores where their diet is usually but as omnivorous they’ll eat most things. They are one of the 100 most invasive species on the planet.
They use the bigger pincer (chela), normally on the right for crushing shells and the smaller pincer for cutting food. They can also re-grow missing limbs much in the same way that other crustaceans like lobsters and prawns can.
To check if your crab is a female or male look for the following; females have a more rounded belly (abdomen), males have a more pointed abdomen.
The best thing to catch your crabs in is a net, weighted at the bottom with a draw-string bag to place your bait in. Traditionally hand lines have been used with weight on the end and a strong copper wire boom with a length of line attached where the bait is tied on.
Top tips on how to look after the crabs you catch.
Always fill a good-sized bucket with sea water, never use water from a tap. Also change the water every hour or so.
Keep no more than ten crabs in a bucket and make sure you keep them out of the sun so the water stays cook otherwise you’ll end up boiling them. It is also advisable to put a few crabs back every now and again so the same crabs don’t end up all day in your bucket.
What you will find whilst crabbing in harbours are shrimps, these tend to hide in the seaweed which is attached to the harbour walls, if you have a fine mesh net you should find some of these will eagerly be attracted to your bait and when lifting the net up the walls will no doubt make their way into it.
There is a good fact sheet available from Norfolk County Council which is done in association with the Norfolk Coast Partnership and Department of Zoology from University of Cambridge.
A recent episode on the BBC Countryfile programme which covered the North Norfolk Coast it reported that the taste of the commercially fished Norfolk Crab was much sweeter than its South Coast cousin as the sea bed of the Norfolk Coast is made up of chalk and this imparts a sweeter flavour – I have to say my crab sandwich from the Ship Inn in Porthleven was pretty good, however I do think the small Norfolk crabs hard to beat for flavour.