Catching crabs by a line (also called Gillie-crabbing) is as old as the seaside itself, but how to do it hasn’t changed a great deal. So here’s how you do it… step by step.
The best way to learn is not by the textbook, but by experience… and a few nips on the fingers.
Norfolk’s great for crabbing because of its estuarial and creek waters that the little blighters like inhabiting. Top spots are Blakeney and Wells-next-the-Sea quays and Cromer, where the world championships are held every August Bank Holiday (check with event organisers for details). Or go for the tidal creeks at Titchwell, Brancaster Staithe or Burnham Overy Staithe. There’s other places you can go rockpooling for them too, such as Hunstanton.
1 All you need is a piece of string or line, a weight and a bait. Try not to use nets and hooks – they’re very unsporting. Dynamite and blunderbusses are actively discouraged.
2 This is a sport of quality not quantity. The goal is to get the heaviest specimen.
3 Look after them in sea water-filled buckets until the game is over and they are returned, unharmed, to their natural habitat.
4 Tie the bait (perhaps fish, particularly the heads, or bacon or even dough soaked in whisky) to the end of your string, with the weight tied just above. Lower to the bottom and wait. By all means do the ‘Huckleberry Finn’ and tie the other end of the string to a toe and just lay back and relax. When you feel a tug, pull… but very, very slowly.
5 Be patient. If the crab thinks it’s in the speedy elevator going up The Shard in London it will drop off. And you’ll be left at square one.
6 When you pull one up successfully (and you will!) handle it from the back. The things that pinch are at the front!
7 Once you’ve returned your crabs to the sea water, we recommend celebrating your success with a delicious sandwich or salad… of Cromer crab!
And ever wondered why our crabs and lobsters taste so good? It’s because they feed off the world’s longest chalk reef. Yes, really!