Using Peeler Crab as Sea Fishing Bait
This is probably the most popular sea fishing bait used by the sea angler, and it is used up and down the coast as it attracts a variety of different species. It gets its name from the fact that it sheds or peels its skin at several stages throughout its life. When the crab is in a state of peeling it is a much sought-after bait. Due to the sheer demand, the price of peeler crabs in tackle shops can soar in the winter months, when they are in very short supply.
If you are lucky enough to live near an estuary where peelers are present, you may be in a position to collect them yourself at low tide. Many fishermen have established areas of the seashore where they have placed special peeler traps. These usually consist of a length of a broken pipe or a semi-circular roof tile, which the crab will hide under while peeling its shell. The trap is inserted into the mud or shingle at an angle, allowing the peeler to crawl under it to shed its shell.
When the tide drops the crab will be found sheltering deep in the back end of the trap. It’s hard work collecting peelers, and in some areas, you may only find five crabs in 100 traps per tide. However, if you are fishing in competitions in the winter, it’s well worth the effort, for this is, without doubt, a superior bait. Peeler crabs are widely used for flounder and cod fishing and are easy to prepare for the hook. If you look at the shell on the back of the crab you will see a split forming around the base of the shell near to the legs.
With your thumb and forefinger gently prise the shell upwards and it will come off. This will reveal a soft skin and once exposed it is a deadly bait. To make the bait go further the crab can be cut, into two sections. Simply take a knife and cut down through the center of the body. Don’t through the center of the body. Don’t discard the legs as they are a good bait in their own right. The legs, once peeled, can either be used to hold the body of the crab on the hook or can be used by themselves as bait. By picking away the shell at the end of the legs you will soon be able to peel away the rest of the protective coating to reveal the soft flesh.
The best way to store peelers is to collect them and keep them alive in a bucket, covering them with damp seaweed. If you are going to keep them for a few days you will need to replace the seaweed as it will dry out. It is advisable to remove any dead or dying peelers from the bucket and freeze them but peel them first before freezing. They should be frozen individually and wrapped in clear (plastic) film to protect them from freezer burn. Before freezing, remove the gills, which can be found at the side of the crab under the eyes. This will help to keep them fresher if they are to be frozen for a long period.
Hooking Peeler Crab
To get the best from your bait it is advisable to peel the body completely and remove the gills and legs. The legs should also be fully peeled. Lay the peeled crab on its back and cut the body in half long-ways, down through the center with a knife. Take half the body and thread the point of the hook through the leg sockets, starting at one end and working up through the sockets to the other. The crab should be quite secure on the hook at this stage.
To enhance the bait and help to keep the body on the hook if casting a fair distance, the legs can be impaled on the hook below the body. Using the legs in this manner will give the impression of the bait being a whole, live crab. If you like to fish at a long distance and place a considerable force on the bait when casting, use an elastic cotton thread to bind the bait into position on the hook for added security.