Monday, July 2, 2012

Children's Guide to Boston Harbor: Crabbing

Hi again,

Today's post is about crabbing on the Boston Harbor! We will explain the basics of crabbing, and then we will tell you where the best places to crab are on the harbor. The types of crabbing we have tried recently can be broken down into two different methods. The first is the simpler of the two. This method is combing the beach for crabs. On certain beaches, crabs can be found by turning over rocks along the water. The crabs that are underneath small ocean rocks tend to be small and quick. It is important to be ready to catch the crab as soon as you lift up the rock. When handling the crab you can cup your hands around the crab or pick up the crab from behind. Picking up the crab from behind is a precautionary measure to avoid being pinched, but smaller crabs are much easier to handle and cannot pinch very hard. 
Save the Harbor/Save the Bay participants learning
more about crabs at Boston's Children's Museum
The species of crab generally found using this method of crabbing on the Boston Harbor are two invasive species. These are asian shore crabs and green crabs. Invasive species are not native to the area they inhabit. They can have damaging effects on that area's eco-system. Most of these species were introduced to Massachusetts on ocean-crossing ships. Below, both types of crabs are shown.

A child holding an asian shore crabs
 Asian shore crabs have three ridges near the front of their shells on either side.

Green crabs are easily recognizable by the five ridges along the front of their shells on either side. Do not be fooled by an orange green crab! This may be confusing, but it is possible for green crabs to be other colors besides green. 

One of the crab traps we hung
off of the fish pier. We caught
two green crabs!
The second way to go crabbing requires more gear. This method is catching crabs using crab traps. You will need a crab trap, a line, and bait. Crab traps and lines can be found at a local fishing store. For bait you can use fish or raw chicken. Crab trapping requires a permit only if you are catching edible crabs. Some edible crab species you might find in the harbor are rock crabsjonah crabs, and blue crabs. The most common non-edible crabs you can find include the ones listed above along with spider crabs. In general, the crabs that you catch in these traps tend to be larger crabs.
To catch the crab you must seal the bait in the crab trap, close the trap, and tie a rope to it. You can then lower the trap off the dock until it is on the bottom of the water. You must leave the trap for a little while or overnight depending on the number of crabs you want to catch. When enough time has passed you can lift up the trap and see who you have found.
Crabbing is very accessible in the Boston Harbor. A lot of rocky beaches have crabs, and most docks can be used for crab traps. However, some locations are especially great for crabbing. These locals include a few of Save the Harbor/ Save the Bay's summer visiting sites. For beach combing and looking for crabs on the shore, both Spectacle Island and George's Island are great spots. You are likely to find endless amounts of Asian Shore crabs at either of these sites. For crab traps, Boston Children's Museum is a spot where you are almost guaranteed to catch plenty of crabs. The crab's you catch at the Children's Museum are likely to be green crabs and spider crabs.
Once again, if you recognize a crab as edible it is illegal to take it from the dock without a permit. For more information on crabbing permits click this link here. The non-edible crabs you catch can be used as fishing bait or can simply be tossed back into the water. Crabbing is a great way to enjoy what the harbor has to offer. Just make sure you are kind to your clawed friends!

-Bridget and Alyssa

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