Oh, Those Little Crabs!

Patty and I used to do a lot of fishing in Barnegat Bay on our vacation. You get pretty good at it after a while. But one thing we never did get good at was using fiddler crabs or green crabs as bait.

See, you go to the lighthouse to stand on the jetty and fish for blackfish. But first you visit the bait shop and buy a little paper bag full of live crabs, the recommended bait. At this point your life begins to make less and less sense.

Each of the dozens of crabs in the bag is a living perpetual motion machine. They all want out of the bag and they’re not about to take “no” for an answer. So if you open the bag to reach in and get a crab, what you’ve got is 50 or 60 little crabs all trying to escape at once.

It wouldn’t be so hard if you had four or five more hands. Meanwhile, the Portuguese guys standing just a few yards away are pulling in one blackfish after another, all caught with crabs. They’re right there in front of us, but no matter how hard we stared at them, we couldn’t begin to figure out how they were doing it. We couldn’t understand how they managed to put one crab on the hook without all the others getting away.

Aaagh! They just won’t stop! The crabs are like an invading army on the move. Eventually there is nothing to do but let them have their way. No holding them back. If you’re old enough to remember that old video game, “Space Invaders,” and that point in the game where there are just so many monsters all advancing at once on your defenses, you’ll have a fair idea of what we went through with those crabs. I am also reminded of Mickey Mouse in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” with all those animated brooms sloshing buckets of water all over the place, completely beyond his control.

This is how you wind up using squid strips. You won’t catch any blackfish, but at least you won’t go mad.

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