Getting Crabby

A Group of pre-teen girls learns being in the outdoors can be more fun than a Justin Timberlake concert.

EDITOR’S NOTE — This story won third place in Louisiana Sportsman’s recent “All Play and No Work” writing contest.The excitement of the catch may be closer than you think on those windy, chocolate-water days when the fish practically disappear.

Rather than surrendering to the poor fishing conditions, try taking a few electronic-gizmo-jaded kids to an old bridge or dock for some old-fashioned excitement that may entertain even the most weathered fisherman.

A recent spell of poor fishing conditions provided an opportunity for some quality time to a group of gum-smacking pre-teen girls. All of the elements of a line-stripping fight with a bull red in shallow water were represented here. As the crab nets, string, bait and dip nets were set up, the opportunity to teach the kids about the marsh, tides and moon cycle had its natural timing.

Next on the list was instruction on teamwork and patience, which was cut short by the sheer pandemonium that soon erupted when a net was lifted from the edge of the bridge, allowing a glimpse of a large, feisty, ready-for-battle blue crab.

It was nice to watch the girls’ gotta-act-cool guards melt away like ice cream in the June sun. This was turning out to be some pretty serious fun. This crab was not interested in participating in the kids’ newly discovered thrill, as the girls quickly found out. The fact that this critter was willing to fight back, and the slight risk of getting one of those wonderfully colored pinchers around a finger, seemed to add to the kids’ adventure and respect.

After placing the feisty crustacean in the cooler, the kids were shown how to work the nets in order. Within two rotations they were showing teamwork and skill while lifting, netting and boxing the keeper-sized crabs.

The smaller ones were allowed to grow up, and they amazed the kids with their speed and tenacity.

The near panic and squealing (read un-cool) of each successful catch continued round after round, which no amusement park ride or video game could top.

“Get the net,” shouted 13-year-old Chelcy as she was now leading a pair of 9-year-old pals, Meris and Allegra.

“I had a big one, but he got away,” explained Meris, temporarily disappointed but eager to try a speedier technique with the net.

The skill and teamwork was rapidly improving now, with the kids catching crabs on a fishing pole, lifting and netting a few from the bridge several feet above the water.

Catching crabs on a pole from a bridge can be a challenge for anyone, but to see these kids adapt and be successful was very rewarding.

“Can you teach me to pick one up?” asked Allegra, cautious but unafraid to try.

The fun continued while each crab was carefully examined by the trio, noting the various colors and physical makeup of each captured prize.

The mothers of the adolescents soon arrived with a younger boy, and appeared surprised by all of the commotion and excitement.

“They are really having fun with this aren’t they?” commented one of the parents.

Within seconds, a pair of nets were lifted by the girls, now eager to show off their newly developed skills, while landing several scampering crabs. Soon the mothers were eager to get in on the action, reaching for their cameras, wanting to preserve the moment.

Soon the tide began to change and rip through the canal. The bite waned, to the dismay of the crabbers. Further explanation of the tides and reasons the crab quit biting were met with a collective “Awwwwww” as they were not ready for the action to stop.

The tide brought with it floating bottles, cartons and other items of refuse that encouraged conversation about picking up after yourself, and how pollution damages the environment. The kids agreed to gather up old string and chicken neck cartons left by others on the bridge, and take with us for disposal.

Just as the gang was packing up for the trip home, an alligator appeared in the canal, causing another round of pandemonium to break loose as the children’s parents grabbed the cameras.

What a way to put the final touch on a truly rewarding and beautiful summer day. The feeling of giving time and lasting memories to some kids is hard to beat, especially when it involves the opportunity to teach them respect for the fisheries and aquatic systems that support them.

The next time the winds and tide put a damper on your fishing trip, do yourself a favor and take a kid crabbing. You probably don’t know what you’re missing.