Category: Crab Baits

Hermit Crab – A Stone Cold Cod Killer!

hermitcrabimageTo be honest, cod will take most baits offered if the mood takes them, from lugworm, ragworm and mussels through through to squid, mackerel and peeler crab. There is one bait however that is an underated cod killer and that is the hermit crab. Whether used on its own or married with another type of bait in a potent cocktail, these predatory fish go nuts for them.

Where to get them? – Some tackle shops will stock a supply of a stock of hermits frozen in their shells but without doubt fresh are the way to go and are easy enough to procure through the right contacts. It is well worth taking a trip down to your local harbour as the crab potters come back with their hauls as many get a large supply as a by-catch whilst targeting edible crabs and perhaps lobster. Even if they do tend to ditch them at sea, you may be able to work a deal where they retain a few for your use.

Why not just use peeler crab? – Peeler crab is a pretty pricey bait at the best of time with a single crab retailing at 75p each during the summer when supply is plentiful. In winter supply and demand pressures kick in and if anything the price per crab will likely reach £1, if not higher. In comparison you can pick up frozen hermit crab from bait suppliers for around 30-40p each. Even better, if you are able to come to an agreement with your local crab potter/trawler skipper, a crisp £10 note could get you around 60 of the little devils. At 16p each, it’s a bargain!

How to present them? – A pennel rig really does help with presentation and bait elastic is an absolute essential if you want your offering to survive the cast.

hermit2hermit3The first challenge however is to coax the shy hermit crab out the shell which is sometime easier said than done.

Occasionally a little bit of brute force with either a hammer or a rock is necessary to break the shell away. Other times you will be able to tease it out by pulling gently.

The bulk of the hermit crab is a fleshy sack that oozes with flavoursome juice so take care not to damage this too much, I like to keep the legs and claw on as something to hook into. Two hermits make a decent sized bait and are more than adequate especially if you have threaded on some lugworm or a whole squid before hand.

hermit5Secure the lot with some bait elastic – you can pull it quite tight around the legs but be careful around the juicy main body. Without doubt hermit crab provides one of the most scent laden bait out there. Don’t be scared to put a really big bait out there for the cod as even your average sized codling has a mouth big enough to take the lot on a 5/0 hook.

The only drawback to this bait is the same as many other delicate baits in that it can get washed out in a short period of time meaning regular re-baiting. One way to cater for this is to have detachable traces so you can bait up the next one whilst the line is in the water. This is a great tactic for maximising fishing time.

So save your pennies and opt for hermit crab – the results will be well worth it!

Peeler Crab: An Angler’s Guide

crabtrapConsidered a pest by most anglers, when water temperatures increase shore crabs will start to peel and this is the time they become one of the most favoured bait by anglers.


When to Collect Peeler Crab

The majority of crabs peel several times annually with the first mass peel occurring in spring.  It’s necessary to allow the crab to grow and they achieve this by absorbing large quantities of water, this in turn swells the inner body cracking the existing shell and revealing a new soft one underneath.


Where to Collect Peeler Crab

shorelinePeelers can be found in rock pools, under rocks and around walls and piers, and some anglers will set crab traps in order to create a natural looking habitat for the crab.


How to Collect Peeler Crab

Collection is undertaken at low tide. It is important that you replace any rocks that you move back to their original position to ensure that the smaller creatures attached to the rocks survive and weed is not trapped underneath as this will rot and kill the habitat in addition to becoming unsightly and smelly.

If you are going to walk along the beach and collect crab from the rocks etc, then it is a good idea to take a small hand held garden fork with the ends bent downwards, this will assist you in locating the crab (by gently raking through the mud and water beneath the rock) as they can be as far down as 3 inches and where there is one crab there are probably many more as they tend to live in colonies.


Before collecting any form of bait or laying traps, be sure to check local byelaws and area specific ecological management plans to ensure these actions aren’t prohibited, check out the Intertidal Fisheries Code of Conduct and do always follow the bait collector’s code.


Is it a Peeler? How to check:

peelerlegBreak away a small segment of the crabs 2nd to last leg, do not do this to the crab’s last leg as this is its “swimming” leg and is important to it. If there is a new soft leg underneath then you have a peeler, if you just get a white sinew then you have a hard back crab.

Alternatively, on examination you may see that the rear part of the top of the shell is lifting away from the main crab, this is generally called a “popper” and is perfect for immediate use.

“Softies or Jellies” are crabs that have peeled on the last tide, these are generally found on the surface, under weed or rocks, again these are perfect for immediate use.

cockcrabShould you find a crab underneath another, the crab on top is a male or “cock” crab and is waiting for the other to peel in order to mate, or actually mating.  This guarantees the lower crab to be a peeler, popper or a softie.

If the two crabs are facing the same way, the lower crab has yet to peel and is therefore a peeler or a popper, if they are facing in toward each other then it has just peeled and is a softie.


How to Keep Peeler Crab

In order to keep your crab in mint condition ready for use as bait, crabs should be kept refrigerated and checked daily.  Keep the crabs in a container such as a cat litter tray, keep them cool at all times in a quarter inch or so of seawater and cover them in seaweed or a tea towel soaked in sea water. Seaweed is preferable since there will be lots of little critters living amongst it to keep the crabs happy.

Its good practice is to change the sea water several times a week to keep the crabs in the healthiest condition possible.

To enable you to do this, remember to collect some fresh seaweed at the end of your bait collecting session and also take something like a 4 pint plastic milk carton down with you to fill with seawater collected from the same area as the crabs. When back home, keep the ‘spare’ seaweed and water in the fridge also.

Crabs should be checked daily and any dead crabs removed and discarded immediately. Those starting to peel should also be removed and separated this can be kept for a few days at the most, and if not going to be used should be frozen down for a later date.


Preparing for a Session: How to Manage Peeler Crab

popperpreparingpeelersSelecting crabs for use is also important, you don’t want to take crabs that are not in the peeling stage out with you as these will soon die, to do this check each crab for signs of “popping” you can identify these my the following methods:

1 The crabs shell will be cracked or raised near the rear end.

2. By pressing on the shell near the rear end, it will crack to show that it is ready.

Crabs that have popped and are not going to be used should be frozen down.  Peel the crab fully and then wrap it in cling film, having removed the lungs. “Softies or Jellies” do not freeze so well due to the high amount of water content.

If you collect many peelers at various stages then there may be times when you need to ‘bring them on’ (speed up the process) or ‘hold them back’ (slow down the process) in order to use them. Peeler crabs can be brought on by giving them a greater amount of fresh sea water to drink and also allowing them to warm up a little, you will notice bubbles from the crabs jaws as they drink the water. Inversely, slightly lowering the temperature will slow the peeling process down, but don’t be tempted to dry them out too much as it won’t do them any good at all.

Presentation of the crab is as important as collecting and keeping them, they can be used as bait on their own or as a tip off with rag or lug; larger crabs can be cut in half and used on smaller hooks. Light bait elastic is required to help keep this soft bait in place while casting.

Article by: Florrie

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