Fishing can be entertaining for Hilton Head visitors, but take it to the next level with an outing of crabbing. Crabbing in Hilton Head will surely add some laughs with the entire family. All you need is a bucket, a crab net, a bail of sturdy strong, a sinker weight, and some chicken necks (found in the 101 Things To Do Booklet guide). Now you are ready to meet the Carolina Blue Crab.
Cut the line about ten to twelve feet, add a sinker, then a chicken neck for bait. Go to any crabbing site like a pier, sea wall, sea shore, or dock. Crabs will be closer to shore in murky water and a bit farther out in clear water. Tie the rope in a stick, leave the end with the chicken in the water, and patiently wait.
You'll see the crab nibbling on your line. Once he grabs, pull the line in with him on it and scoop him into the bucket. He must be five inches wide point to point to keep. A crab with an orange spongy belly is pregnant so let her loose. This process can be rather exciting. Keep the crabs wet and cold until you are ready to cook. Tongs may help you get them out of that bucket!
Cooking crab is easy. Throw the crab live into a pot of boiling water. They'll scream these really loud pitched cry, but don't worry about it (JUST KIDDING) Let him cook about fifteen minutes seasoned with lemon salt, and crab boil. When they are ready, they will be dark pinkish around the claws.
You may want some assistance.
Hilton Head Island and Beaufort is well known for it's marshes and waterways. Beaufort is a growing grounds for shrimp and most other sea life. In late summer, the shrimp that hatched and grew in these marshes begin their departure to the open sea. While they are preparing to leave the area, the local shrimpers are preparing for them.
People in the Lowcountry use a cast net for catching shrimp. This is a round net, usually made out of monofilament, nylon or cotton mesh, with weights attached to the outer perimeter of the mesh. A line runs through the center of the net and is attached to another group of lines that are attached to the outer weights. When the net is thrown, the mesh forms a circle, flattening out like a plate. The net sinks to the bottom still flattened out, trapping whatever shrimp were under the net. The line is then pulled in, thus closing the net, and trapping everything in it.
Cast nets come in many sizes. Most people use a net between 4' to 8' in diameter. If you have never used a cast net before, you may want to start with a 4' to 5' at first, as they are easier to learn with. It does take some practice to form a perfect circle when thrown.
Shrimp can be caught off the bank, pier, dock, or by boat. The best time to shrimp is near low tide, when the water has receded from the marsh grass, day or night. The shrimp start getting to be a decent size around September and really big in November. The size of shrimp is often referred to as "count". When you have 24 count, it simply means on an average, 24 shrimp will make a pound. In late November, you can have counts lower than 8.
Another method of shrimping, very popular here, is "baiting". This involves mixing mud and bait, usually fishmeal, and forming into a ball or patty, similar to a really thick hamburger. Every shrimper has their own recipe for the mixture and type of mud used. These are then thrown into the water, and as the shrimp feed on the fishmeal, the cast net is thrown over the area where the bait is. You can fill your net on almost every cast.When done from boats, long bamboo or fiberglass poles are placed in the area where the bait will be thrown, thus marking the spot. This way a shrimper can set a line of many poles, dropping bait at each pole. The boat is then maneuvered within throwing distance of the first pole. The net is thrown over the baited area and while pulling in the net, the boat drifts to the second pole. You're now in position to throw the net again and this procedure is repeated at each pole. By the time you reach the last pole, it's time to go back to the first one. You must have a special license to use this method, and it's best to apply for a baiters license well in advance, as it does take some time to process. Permits are available after August 1 through the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
If you do not have the time to cast for shrimp, Beaufort and Hilton Head has many seafood markets that sell fresh local shrimp, already headed. With all the shrimp fleets in Beaufort, the supply of shrimp is guaranteed to be steady.
Not for cast netting without bait. *Baiting :Yes, required for baiting
May 1 - Dec 15 cast netting, no bait Baiting : 60 day period set by State between September and November.
48 quarts whole or 29 quarts headed : for both Non-baited and Baited
Baiting - 10 pole limit
Before shrimping, check for the latest information on regulations, as they do change. You may find information at the SCDNR office or your local fishing supply store. Some people are allergic to shrimp and other types of shellfishand not even realize it.If, after eating shrimp or shell fish, you begin to have symptoms like tightness in the throat, chest or develop hives( red patches ), you may be having an allergic reaction. It is important to call 911 as this can become life threatening.If you have ever had a reaction to shrimp or to shellfish, DO NOT risk eating shrimp or shellfish again!