MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- For seafood lovers, crabbing is one of the most palatably rewarding leisure activities available to service members stationed in the Lowcountry.
With the wide variety of edible sea life in Beaufort, the blue crab’s abundance, taste and simplicity to harvest, have made it quite the catch and a local favorite.
“By far, crabbing is the easiest hobby to pick up and it’s edible, what’s not to love about that?” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Laks, an air traffic controller here. “You just go to the dock or landing, bait your net, drop the net into shallow water around low tide, wait a few minutes to pull it back up and hope for success. I usually do really well on the pier in Laurel Bay.”
Crabbing gives Marines the opportunity to relax, spend time with friends and family or simply take in a breath of fresh air, according to Laks. It is also a very low-cost activity. Basic necessities include bait, which includes everything from bacon to chicken, with chicken necks being the most commonly used, a drop net or collapsible basket and a bucket to place to hold the catch, all of which can be found at local fishing supply stores.
“One of the more frustrating parts of crabbing is when they steal your bait,” said Cpl. Michael King, a military policeman here. “At the same time though, it’s kind of funny because you realize you were duped by a crab.”
The best time to crab is around low tide, when the crustaceans are feeding. The time of day, as far as morning or evening, does not affect the amount caught, according to Sgt. Jeremy Nguyen, the game warden with the Provost Marshal’s Office here. Limitations on keeping crabs are set by South Carolina state law. The law states that the width of the crab’s shell must be five inches from tip to tip, and female blue crabs carrying an egg mass, which are called "sponge crabs," are protected and must be must be returned to the water immediately if captured.
Crabs can be caught year-round here, but the amount caught may go down during the winter time or when water temperature falls below 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but the best time to harvest crabs is from October to December, according to Nguyen.
The blue crab's scientific name means savory beautiful swimmer, and not only do crabs live up to their name, they are easy to catch, plentiful and very simple to cook, explained King.
“Either steam them with a double boiler or boil them in a big pot of water for between 20 and 30 minutes,” said King. “A large range of spices can be used for flavoring, but most prefer Old Bay Seasoning. Within a two-hour period of deciding to go crabbing, you can be at home eating your catch.”