While you can occasionally purchase fiddler crabs from bait shops, most recreational anglers choose to catch their own. If you are quick and know where to look, you can simply catch fiddler crabs by hand. However, by using a few tools, tricks and traps, you can catch enough bait for a full day of fishing.
Fiddler crabs live between the high tide mark and the low tide mark – an area called the littoral zone. During low tide, the crabs exit their burrows, forage and court conspecifics. When the tide comes in, the crabs retreat to their burrows, which they plug with mud to keep out the water. Fiddler crabs work well for catching a variety of game fish, including black drum, redfish, pompano and sheepshead.
You can catch fiddler crabs by simply waiting for low tide, and chasing the quick crustaceans. However, they seldom venture far from their burrows, so you must be quick to grab them before they reach their retreats. Consider enlisting your kids to help catch the fiddler crabs by making a game out of the activity. Being lower to the ground and blessed with more energy, children can often catch fiddler crabs more effectively than adults can. While the large claw of males looks formidable, fiddler crabs cannot pinch very hard. Pick them up by hand or use a small net to extend your reach.
Digging Them Up
If you do not want to spend your morning chasing fiddler crabs along the beach, you can try to locate their burrows and dig them up. You can use your hands to dig in suitably soft mud, but a shovel makes the task easier. Be sure to replace the mud you dig up to avoid compromising the aesthetics of the beach, and be sure it is legal to dig for crabs in the area.
Setting a Trap
A simple sand pail makes a great trap for fiddler crabs. First, scout for an area with plentiful crab burrows. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the pail, which you should then place inside the hole. Place some bait -- cut squid or fish work well -- in the bottom of the bucket and move away from your trap. After a brief time, fiddler crabs should be drawn to the bait and fall in the bucket. You can also place a piece of fabric or mesh on the ground, toss some bait in the center and wait for fiddler crabs to crawl onto the fabric. Once several crabs are on the fabric, lift it off the ground to catch the crabs.
Rules and Regulations
Always follow local laws and regulations when catching fiddler crabs or any other live bait. Fishing licenses are required for catching fiddler crabs in some areas, whereas other areas may prohibit their collection entirely. Local regulations may prohibit the use of tools, including nets or baskets, for catching fiddler crabs or establish daily bag limits and closed seasons.