Kiawah River’s Field Guide Comes to Life: How to Go Crabbing

Catching crabs, or crabbing, is an unofficial fundamental pastime of the Coastal South, especially along our South Carolina shores. The Lowcountry’s intercoastal waterways are stocked full of blue crabs and catching them is a perfect way to enjoy the coast’s pristine tidal creeks in the early summer sunshine. Plus, as Kiawah River’s resident crustaceans, the bright-hued crabs make for a tasty dinner, either by themselves or part of a Lowcountry boil the whole family will enjoy and long remember. 

Known for their fifth pair of legs, which are shaped like paddles to help them swim faster, the Atlantic blue crab is striking to spot with its often bright-blue claws and olive-colored shell. Blue crabs typically inhabit estuaries and brackish coastal lagoons, and many have made Kiawah River’s tidal creeks their home. 

The Lowcountry has an abundance of great crabbing spots, from the marshes of tidal creeks to the piers at James Island County Park, Sunrise Park on James Island and the West Ashley Greenway near the Stono River Bridge. Residents of Kiawah River can crab right in their own neighborhood. Just be sure to register for a fishing license from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources before going crabbing in the Charleston area.  

You can go crabbing year-round in South Carolina, but crabs are most active in the early summer months through late fall, when the waters are warmer. The crustaceans travel in and out of inlets with the tide, so two hours before or after high tide are the peak timeframes for a successful catch.

Before you set out on your crabbing adventures, read these pro tips straight from The Field Guide to Kiawah River and the Charleston Sea Islands for an unforgettable crabbing experience: 

How to Catch a Blue Crab: 

First: To catch blue crabs, raw chicken is the preferred bait. Attach a few yards of string to a stick or spool, and at the other end tie on a chicken neck or gizzard and a small fishing weight. (For a store-bought version, simple crabbing kits with weighted chicken hooks are often available at local bait shops and hardware stores.)

Next: Drop the weighted bait into a tidal creek and watch for the line to move; pull up the line, and hopefully, you’ll feel the weight of a blue crab that’s still hanging on. 

Just before lifting from the water, use your net to scoop up the crab into the bucket. 

Gear Checklist for Creek / Marsh Exploring:

> Sneakers or tall rubber boots (Note: oyster shells are sharp, so thick soles are essential to protect your feet)

> Bucket

> Crabbing line and bait

> Tongs or gloves to handle blue crabs

> Cast net

> Scoop net

> Sunglasses, hat, insect repellant and sunscreen