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When do the blue claws usually arrive in the back bays?

Also, does anyone know if there are any public bulkheads and/or docks to crab around the Townsend's Inlet area of Sea Isle? I will be down there a lot this summer and would love to crab within walking distance but all I see are private docks.
 

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TI is tuff to crab without a boat, head to the sea isle end. You will get a mixed response as far as when the crabs come in. I started doing good last season in June till October.
 

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Unedited article I wrote for boaters digest last season.

?Get the Scent in the Water?, if You Want to Catch NJ Blueclaw?s.

In the business world normally the person who succeeds, does something their competition is not willing to do. This philosophy could be applied to recreational crabbing. Most crabbers don?t marinate their chicken legs in bunker chunks to take advantage of the crabs sense of smell or practice throwing their crab traps long distances. But if you want to come home with your bushel full of large NJ blueclaws, this is often what it takes.

Crabs Do Smell
The blueclaw crabs sense of smell is well developed and allows them to identify food and a prospective mate. First, I will address the importance of getting fish scent in the water to take advantage of the crabs sense of smell when they are in search for food. Typical crab baits are bunker, chicken or fish carcasses. If using chicken then marinate it over night in your refrigerator, in fish parts such as bunker, bluefish or any fish skelatin. This will reduce the chicken flavor and replace it with a ?fishy? taste. You can experiment with different marinade items. I mainly use fish carcasses but I have tried bunker oil, vinegar and even honey mustard. Have fun with it.
Common sense will tell you that a fresh piece of bait will give off more scent in the water than a half eaten piece of chicken or bunker. With this in mind, regular bait changes will increase the amount of scent in the water. Before you throw that old bunker head in the water, first cut it into pieces. Throw these pieces around your handlines or traps to increase the scent in your crabbing area.
Next, I will discuss how you can take advantage of the crabs sense of smell when the male crab uses scent to locate a mate. The male blueclaw crab uses scent to locate a breedable female. So, lets try to take advantage of this fact.The theory is if you tie a female crab who is ready to breed into your trap then this will attract large males. These female crabs can be caught in your traps. It will be the small female crab attached to the large male crab. For years, when I caught these breeding crabs, I would keep the male crab but the female would be released. This was before I knew these female crabs, if tied in a trap, attract large males. Often these female crabs are in their softshell stage and should be handled carefully then released at the end of the day. These breedable softshell crabs can also be caught by scraping them off of bulkheads or bridges with a long handled net. Your net should be about 5 foot with a wooden handle, which will float, if dropped. For best results, make a knot in the net webbing to allow the crabs to exit the net easier. There is no question concentrating on scent will increase your crabbing results. Other factors are also important including type of bait, trap style, handline and trotline techniques, to name a few.

Do Chickens Swim ?
A hungry crab will eat just about any bait but as previously stated the most common baits are bunker, fish sketalins and chicken.I have to honest, it took years of crabbbing before I put a piece of chicken in one of my crab traps or on the end of a hand line. I felt chicken was unnatural and should not be used as crab bait. Normaly, I followed the fly-fishing technique of ?matching the hatch? when it came to bait selection. And since I never saw any chickens swimming around in the back bay, this caused me to overlook the use of this productive bait.Try to find a ?managers special? on chicken legs at your local supermarket. You could fill your freezer for the season if you hit a good sale. Although, nothing is better than free bait. This could be from fish which you caught and fileted or from a fish market. Many fish markets will gladly fill your bucket with fish skelotons for free or for a small fee.

Throwing Traps for Distance
You will need long rope on your traps if you want to take advantage of throwing your traps for distance. It will take practice but if you throw your traps out further than the guy next to you from shore, the result normally is more crabs in your basket. It may be hard to believe but small box traps can be thrown over 50 feet. Just tie one end of the line to your non-throwing hand and overhand toss the trap with the other hand. Give youself about 80 feet of line per trap, depending on how deep the water is where you are crabbing.
This technique will work from any bulkhead, rockpile or sod bank or even from a boat. I used this method in my youth at the bulkhead on the way into Sea Isle City. I would catch 2-3 times as many crabs as the person right next to me using this technique combined with other crabbing strategies.
I prefer the shorter 4 door box traps. Try to find this type of trap in the heavest gauge steel possible. The stronger steel cage will catch more crabs due to its solid construction. Also,you will be able to throw it further from shore because of the additional weight of the trap. These ?heavy? traps are often made in different colors such as red or green.

Handline Techniques
The tackle needed for handline crabbing is very simple. All that is needed is enough crab line to touch the bottom and a long handled net. If you want to get fancy then you could put a hook on the end of your crab line. Who knows, you my hook a fish on you crabline. I surely have caught enough crabs on my fishing line.When using a handline, the bait must hold bottom to be productive. A 2-3oz weight may be added to your line if the tide is pulling your bait off the bottom. Although, you can use a weighted line, it is more natural and productive if no weight is needed. After you are sure that the bait is holding bottom then allow a little slack in the line so the crab can walk with the bait a little.When retrieving the handline from shore or from a boat, the initial pull is the most important. This must be done very slowly at first because this is when the crab is lifted off the bottom. If you do not jerk the bait or pull it up to quickly then the crab should stay on the bait until it hits your net.

Three Baits are Better than One
If one chicken leg or bunker head catches crabs then why not increase your odds by adding a few more pieces of bait to your line. Tie the crab bait on a piece of nylon rope. Space each bait about two feet apart. I normally use 3 baits on each ?trot line?. If the current is moving fast then I will add a sinker to the end of the line to hold bottom. The ?mini? or three bait trot line should be thrown from your boat or from shore. It will take a little practice to throw it straight, without any tangles.
Trot line license information:
A non-commercial crab pot license is required for the use of ?not more than two? trot lines to harvest crabs. And recretional trot lines shall not exceed ?150 feet? in length with a maximum of ?25? baits.

Boat Techniques
I have found that the best technique when crabbing out of a boat is to keep the handlines close to the boat and throw your traps away from the boat. Using traps near the boat will disturb your handlines. Also, if you are using several traps, leave them in the boat until all the traps are checked. Then once all of the traps are out of the water, check the bait and start thowing them out away from the handlines. If you have 4 traps in the water and you pull one up, then immediately throw it back in the water, this is an example of the ?wrong?way to use multiple traps, because this will disturb the crabs in the 3 other traps in the water which may cause the crabs to swim away.
When crabbing out of a boat, try to anchor near a small feeder channel. Bait such as minnows and shrimp will flow in and out of these channels which attract hungry crabs. A good anchor hold is critical to productive crabbing.Throwing an anchor in the marsh will hold your boat on days when there is a strong current or on windy days. Two anchors work better than one. Throw one out the front of the boat and one out the back. Once the anchor is in the marsh, then let out enough rope to allow you to crab both sides of the boat. No boat movement is best. If you cannot control your boats movement then pull your crab traps out of the water and only use your handlines. A boat swinging back and forth will cause your traps to come off the bottom or sit on their side. A trap not hitting bottom or on its side will not catch crabs.

Crab the Changing Tides
One of the many factors to take into consideration when crabbing is the tide. Wind, rain and boat traffic at low tide will stir up the muddy bottom. When the tide is moving at full speed it will put the muddy sediment in motion. We may not see it at the surface but down near the bottom it can look like a dust storm. When the tide begins to slow the heavy sediment will settle to the bottom. At this time your catch should increase because as the water clears the crab will be able to use its sense of sight to locate your bait.
Slack tide is when the current does not move in either direction. It could last for 45 minutes to an hour. The slack tide will decrease the crabs feeding activity. This will give you time to re-bait your handlines and traps, clean and organize your boat or eat lunch. Take this oportunity to get yourself together and ready for the changing tide. For about an hour after the slack tide is the best time to crab. Just as in fishing, the best time to crab is when the tide is changing. The changing tide will churn up the bottom and all specis including crabs, hunt for an easy meal. Don?t make the mistake of eating lunch or crabbing without bait when the tide changes. This productive time can last for one or on the good days, up to two hours. Be ready for it.

I crab in the southern part of NJ, in Sea Isle City. The best time to crab this area is at the end of August into the month of September. I make it a habit never to keep a female crab before the month of September. It is often difficult to see if a female crab is holding eggs. Eventhough a egg sack is not visable on the female crab, it still may hold eggs. At the end of the season, in the month of September, most female crabs have released all of their eggs and in my opinion can be kept.

Crabbing Regulations
The minimum size limits for crabs (measured from point to point of shell) are listed below:
Peeler or shedder ? 3 inches
Soft crab ? 3 ½ inches
Hard crab ? 4 ½ inches
It is illegal to harvest or possess more than one bushel of crabs per day per person.

Need vs. Nice to Have
I thought it may be helpful if I provided a list of ?need to have? and ?nice to have? items for a crabbing trip.
?Need to Have?
Bait, crab traps, hand lines, crab net, basket to hold crabs, cold water, suntan lotion and lunch.
?Nice to Have?
Cell phone, camera, radio, depth finder, (2) anchors, sunglasses, fishing rod and tackle (just in case you run out of bait).

Crabs in the Basket
Many rookie crabbers make the mistake of keeping their crabs in a bucket of water. This is a mistake because when the crabs use up the oxygen in the bucket of water, they soon die. Instead of submerging them in water, just keep them in a cool area out of the sun, ideally, covered in damp seaweed.Discard any dead crabs before cooking. There are several techniques for cooking blueclaw crabs which include boiling, steaming, frying or even cooking them on a BBQ. I boil about 15 crabs at a time for approximately 10-15 minutes in Old Bay.The cooked crabs should be bright orange and float in the boiling water. After the crabs are cooked, pull the top shell off, clean out the inedible portions then refrigerate. I like to sprinkle a little Old Bay on top of the cooked crabs. Eating crabs is the best part. Get a nut cracker and a stack of news paper ready then gather together a group of friends and enjoy !
 

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I always used bunker anyway. Chicken necks are good for handlining when the crabs are thick but I always put bunker in my box traps and commercial pots (I'm not a commercial but we were allowed two commercial pots off my in-laws dock in Maryland).
 

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awesome report filled with good stuff. Thanks for sharing.
 

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The earliest I have caught crabs in NJ worth keeping, in traps, not dragging for them is 4-10, near channels in shallow muddy flats.
The latest was on Nov 28, one of the warm Thanksgivings, little deeper water, maybe 20 ft. or so, and they were heavy in numbers and weight.
It is not too early now, in fact the sound crabs started about a week ago and they are tasting pretty good !!!!
Blackfinjerry
 

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The crabs are biting like mad now. We could barely keep a flounder bait in the water today behind Sea Isle. We took home a dozen big keepers(crabs) for dinner, all caught on rod and reel.
 

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Crabs of all sorts are here now. Had a crab slam of horseshoe, green, spider and blueclaw.

But the crabbers are hammering them in the back as we speak
 

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You can crab from the bulk heads going into Sea Isle City.The drainage pips are great areas to crab. Bring your traps and a chair and lots of bug spray. There on either side of the road going in.
 

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Guys have you heard much about the Topless traps. Keep your mind clean ? it was a serious question. My brother in-law saw them in Maryland on vacation last year. The big selling point seems to be the fact that you can stack them, which frees up some deck space. Any opinions welcome.
 

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Hardtop, check out blue-crab.org There have been many discussions about them over there. I have the regular traps, but lots of people love em.
 

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we couldnt get rid of them last sat on hook and line while flatty fishin. this the earliest Ive seen them but there here
 

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Thanx aj!
 

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Hardtop we carry the topless traps at Capt Tates in Dennisville so give us a call if interested, Thanks Tim
 

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NOW NOW NOW the crabs are out but they are in the deeper water in the middle of the bay. The commercial crabbers are getting a bushel for every five traps or so.

Set up in an area near the commercial guys and you will be surprized. They won't be in the back creeks until after the first shed, but you can load up now.
 

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I use noyhing but toppless traps LOVE THEM!!!Stack them in a milk crate and your set.
 
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