‘Tis the season to go crabbing.
I have spied many people enjoying this pastime over the past weeks. Here in Casuarina Point, during the months of May and June especially, it is not unusual to see people running down the road carrying a croaker sack in pursuit of a large crab or poking in the bush with a stick or machete. Then, after dark truckloads of people is a familiar sight crawling along the roadside on the lookout for these creatures with people running alongside shining torches into the bush. A flashlight shone into its eyes will blind a crab causing it to stop and thus become an easy target. These crabbers are always well rewarded as land crabs are plentiful at this time of year.
There are two types of land crab found on Abaco – black crabs and white crabs. The majority are of the white variety, although the adults are actually a greyish yellow in colour while the juveniles have more of a bluish hue. These crabs frequent coppice land near the sea and live in burrows. In the wild they eat carrion and excreta which some people find rather off-putting but they also eat buttonwood, see grapes, cocoa plums and other vegetation. In captivity they are happy to live on grits, rice and vegetables.
Although they are called land crabs the sea maintains them. While they can live on fresh water for a period they must have saltwater to survive.
Stephan Johnson, who began crabbing at the age of fifteen, has continued every summer for the last six years as it not only provides for a very good dish for his family dinner table but he also really enjoys it. He remembers the first time he tried as being rather tricky since he did not want to get bitten by the crab’s very large biter, but he soon got the hang of it and has never been bitten.
He explains that he puts his foot on the big biter and then grabs the back of the crab’s shell. Many people hold down the crab with a stick or machete and grab it from the rear where the biter cannot reach. Some experts put their left hand in front of the crab to attract its attention then scoop it up from the rear.
Although the season for land crabs is actually from May to October, Johnson has called it a day for this year as he feels that the best part of the season is May and June. He likes to go out in the evening just before dark when the crabs begin coming out but many people prefer to go in the night as the crabs come out even more at night.
“If you shine a flashlight in their eyes they will stop and you can catch them. Another good time to catch them is after rain because they come out of their holes to sit and dry off with their biters up in the air and so they are very easy to see,” he explained.
While most people use a croaker sack to carry the crabs they catch, Johnson prefers to use a pillowcase. When he is satisfied with his catch, he carries the crabs home and puts them into a cage in which he keeps them for 2 to 3 weeks during which time he fattens them up on bread, watermelon, mangoes and other fruit.
On one particular day Johnson said he was lucky enough to catch 30 crabs.
“The black crabs are smaller and sweeter but they cannot be together in a cage with white crabs as the larger white crabs will kill them,” Johnson said.
He kept an average of 60 crabs in his cage even after his mother took out a few to drop into the pot for one of her tasty crab dishes.
Crab is a delicacy very much enjoyed by Bahamians and visitors and can be enjoyed many ways such as baked, boiled, steamed, stuffed or in the ever popular crab ‘n rice or crab ‘n dough.