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Kayaks and Crabs

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This past week end I left the fishing rods at home, loaded my yak with crab traps and headed out on the Chesapeake for a try at crabbing with a kayak. Neither Crabbing nor kayaks are new to me. However together.... well I'll just say there were some challenges.


The Plan

Knowing I had to carefully think out every operation including loose crabs in the cockpit I started by purchasing a dozen 4 door, low profile box type traps. Thought was to use this type of trap because; 1) They would stack nicely on the stern. 2) The crabs would be easier to handle inside the kayak. 3) Although space is a premium on a yak and there are traps that when stacked occupy less room such as cloth net rings or open top wire I opted for the box style due for ease of crab removal and a preference for removing the dreaded jelly fish over the water versus over my legs.

After a friend recommended purchasing ready made and rigged traps for about $12.00 a piece I decided to do it cheaper. So I ran down to the local Wal*Mart and purchased Foxy Mate traps for $6.00 a piece. Wal* Mart did not have floats or good small diameter polypropylene chord for rigging the floats. So to fill the float and rope needs, off I go.. Dicks, Home Depot and finally to a marine supply store. Stayed awake all Thursday night rigging, erecting traps and cutting bullet floats. Should have listened to my friend. After no sleep and the driving to get the parts, I saved nothing and got agitated in the process.

Lesson learned; Although there is nothing wrong with the put them together yourself traps, I prefer pre-rigged/erected rubber coated models. The wire is generally heavier. They are easier to stack, have softer edges and will save time in erecting. I found and purchased the later of the two after my first day out.


What to do with the crabs?

With some luck I would eventually have some crabs to deal with. Knowing space was limited inside the yak I purchased a Tupper Ware container with the highest sides that would fit between my legs while sitting in the kayak. The crabs would be dumped directly from trap into the container where they could be culled based on size. Plastic tongs and a crab gauge are a must for this evolution. Keepers would be kept in the container for later transfer to a larger container, shorts would be returned to the water.

The Tupper Ware container I figured could hold 1 doz. Jumbo size crabs. After that there would be a need to hold them elsewhere. Plan...Float a bushel basket inside a small truck inner tube. I would attach a length of rope with anchor and tow it near to the intended trap line.


How to get all this stuff to the honey hole in a Pungo 120?

Obviously more gear than space. Because I am a guy, cutting down on the gear would not be an option.

Shove 3-4 traps into the bow area, Stack and tie down six traps on the stern (Important safety tip here; You must be able to stack and tie them while in the water). I used the next best thing to duct tape...Two bungee chords! Next place one trap inside the bushel basket, tie one to the top of the basket and place the last trap behind the yak seat.


Sea Trials

1st Day (Friday). With no sleep and all the traps baited and loaded I arrived at the boat ramp at 6:30am.

Ignoring *** looks from boaters at the ramp I preceded with unloading. Once in the water everything was almost proceeding as planned. It didn't take much paddling to realize a new method of moving the tube and basket were needed. Felt like I had the Titanic in tow. Realizing two trips for gear was inevitable I returned to the ramp, shed 6 traps and placed the tube and basket on the stern. Got to the spot and all I could see were boats running pots and trot lines. After resigning to the facts that day light was burning, horse power was left elsewhere, the water was crowded and limited traps meant limited catch, it would be best to stop right here and crab. Did I mention defeat? Didn't think so.

Ended up boating 16 keepers and turning loose a bunch of shorts. One meal for my wife and me. With a bushel of crabs left waiting to be captured, tired, and tail between my legs I headed home blaming lack of success on my bait.

2nd Day (Saturday) 3:30 am

Feeling well rested, sharp, confident and equipped with skinless chicken necks there was no way I would not catch a bushel of crabs at a new location.

4:30am Dam what time do these people get here? The ramp parking lot is almost full.

Unloaded the yak. Once again many *** looks. After firing up the on board color GPS/Sonar unit a crowd gathers around the crab yak. *** looks turn to curiosity and questions. The session ends with promises by boaters to check on my progress.

5:00am In the water. Tube and two traps tied to bulkhead. Off I go. Figured about ½, no more than 1 mile paddle to this particular spot. Ahh, just what I thought 3-4 feet of water near deeper water, some bait fish, looks we are. Traps untied from stern, Ok, in the water they go, all 10 in a straight line. Man look at those guys over there hawl'n in the crabs. I am feeling lucky today, better check my traps before heading back for the tube, basket and remaining traps. 1st trap...DAMM what a monster crab. 2nd trap...Again.... 3rd trap Another!!!. Before long there are a dozen big crabs in the Tupper Ware. The basket, tube and remaining traps are quickly forgotten about.


Remembering the tube and bushel basket came quickly when I glanced down to see two crabs in the bottom of the yak threatening to end any possibility of children. In an attempt to escape the SIK became a SOT yak. Armed with an oar and able to fend off the critters I managed to get the plastic tongs. OK... Battle over! Back in the tupper ware you go. I was glad I could force the crab carrying container into the bow where it did not allow crabs to escape by climbing out.


After I tired of pulling up empty traps it was time for a move to deeper water.


The morning ended with a bushel of big crabs and a bunch of fun. The boaters who I met earlier on the ramp and a few other curious souls, showed up as promised. All were somewhat surprised that I was able to maintain and haul in a bunch of crabs. Some commented on the fact I looked comfortable while sitting and checking traps. Actually it is quite comfortable. A few offered beers, which I as any self respecting fisherman gladly accepted and consumed.


I had as much fun as fishing and highly recommend crabbing from a yak. Although it is not required I did a lot of paddling due to the spacing of traps. Some yaks work better than others. My wife has a 12' Dagger, Delta which allows for much more gear. If you have a hatch it can be used to store crabs/pots. Towing a spare yak works for hauling excessive gear or simply, limit what you take.



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Wait until after dark.

Bring a net, a flashlight, and a wire basket with a styrofoam flotation collar (Basspro, Cabela's).


Go to the marina, shine the light down each piling, and you will see crabs just hanging out. Net them and dump them in the floating wire basket.


The basket rides INSIDE the kayak when you are moving ...the crabs cannot escape. When you get to a new pier, back in the water it goes, and it floats just fine, no matter how many jumbo's you have stuffed in.


This method is called "scapping" and is the most deadly form of crabbing I know of.

A half hour netted us TWO 5-gallon bnuckets FULL of Blueclaws last year! (YUMMY)



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Wow Jim, Great post!


I really enjoyed the entire story. We've all been there, soaking up the *** looks, etc. But you gotta admit - there's some pride involved when you come back to the ramp and show up with a comparable catch to what the guys hauled in from their $40K rigs.


Please continue to let us know how the saga goes. I'm envisioning hearing you tell us about your first all night kayak fishing expedition... (My first was a near disaster.)


Keep up the good work!


KC Guy

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Ammodyte, Here in Maryland there are regs that don't allow for crabbing after dark, other wise I would give it a go.


I ended up putting the tube and basket on the stern instead of towing it. I do however like the basket that you use, great idea. I have seen them in the shops and using one never crossed my mind. Thanx

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Wow, great post! clapping.gif


Crabbing from a yak is something I've been wanting to learn/do. Let me know if you ever want some company or need help on the water while kayak crabbing. I live in Perry Hall, MD and own 2 16-ft Hobie Adventure kayaks. They have a large tankwell.



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Its a shame that the law in CT is that you have to tend your traps all the time - otherwise I'd have a hundred of them out there.

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