Grandpa Webb's blog

Friday, 23 August 2013

The art of crabbing

My granddaughters have returned from Brittany, where one of the highlights of the holiday was fishing for crabs. A video on dad’s smart phone shows two little girls nervously hauling up a line with something awful dangling on the end. The finale of the small film shows a bucket-full of crabs being emptied on the beach and the crabs scuttling at great speed across the sand to the sea, accompanied by squeals and whoops from their former captors.

Grandpa WebbA few weeks later I am tottering across rocks on the Dorset seashore. “We need a limpet”, says my five year-old grandson. He explains how to persuade one to leave its station on the rocks by giving it a fairly heavy tap with the end of the handle of the fishing net.

Dad dislodges one, and what’s left of the unfortunate limpet is attached to a hook on the fishing line, which is dangled into a rock pool.  Instantly there is a swirl in the water and dad, armed with the net, now cleaned of limpet remains, fishes out a Rock Goby – a small fish about 10 cm long.

“That’s no good,” says the five year-old. “We’re looking for crabs.” Even so, the Goby goes in the bucket to prove we’ve caught something, if anybody asks.

Down goes the line again. This time we can see a large crab taking an interest. My grandson yanks on the line. The crab disengages.

When you are five years old it can be difficult to balance dad’s advice to “pull up the line SLOWLY”, with the excitement of actually having a live crab almost on the end. Grown-up fishermen have the same problem. After a few failures, the crab finally locks on and we get it in the net.

The art of crabbingIt’s a fully-grown velvet swimming crab about 20 cm across including its legs. It glares it us with its red eyes. Dad puts it in the bucket where it sets about chasing the Goby. Gobies eat small crabs, so I suppose it’s out for revenge. The Goby is rescued and put back in the pool.

More crabs are caught. Eventually we have about eight in the bucket.

“Right”, says dad. “We must let them go.”

My grandson shows me how to get hold of a crab without getting nipped. “Pick them up from behind,” he says, selecting one of the smaller ones. “OUCH!” It seems he hasn’t fully perfected the technique. The crabs are tipped on to the sand. They seem bemused at their sudden freedom, and walk around aimlessly. A seagull, sensing a free lunch, takes an interest. We help them into the water.

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