I was fortunate enough to grow up in coastal Georgia where seafood was plentiful and catching my own for supper was always exciting. Especially when it comes to crabbing. The method that I first remember was going out in the boat, tying a chicken neck to a weighted rope and dropping it into the water in the creek. The trick was to keep a light touch on the rope so you could feel the crabs on the line. Then you would slowly pull up the line while someone dipped a net in the water to scoop up the crabs. We didn’t always catch every single one, but it was still great fun.
When my parents built their house on a tidal creek, we built a dock and originally started catching crabs in this manner, however once we discovered crab nets…. Well let’s just say we became more efficient crabbers. To this day, I love going home and sitting out on the dock and crabbing. It’s a very lazy activity but it’s always entertaining for the participants. One of my favorite recent memories was last summer when my dearest friends Jenni and Jill and I crabbed one evening and the trio of us 30+ year old women were more excited about it than Jenni’s young boys.
Prior to moving to Grand Cayman, I read as much as I could about the area and one thing that kept coming up in my reading was information about Land Crabs. When I started working here, I asked about the creatures and what was actually done with them, and I was told – “They come out after the rainy season and we hunt them during the night then later cook them”…
A bit about our prey from Wikipedia…
Gecarcinus ruricola is a species of terrestrial crab. It is the most terrestrial of the Caribbean land crabs, and is found from western Cuba across the Antilles as far east as Barbados. Common names for G. ruricola include the purple land crab, black land crab, red land crab, and zombie crab.
Four colour morphs exist within the species: black, red, yellow and green. The carapace of G. ruricola grows in width at a rate of about 1 inch (25 mm) per year, with the crabs reaching maturity after 5 years, and living for up to 10 years in total. G. ruricola have a number of adaptations to terrestrial life, mostly regarding water conservation. They are nocturnal, to prevent the hot sun from drying them out. They also have a “nephritic pad”, onto which urine is released, in order to be cleaned by microbes before the water is then reabsorbed.
The rainy season is upon us now and has been for a few days. I saw my first land crab a few days ago on my drive home. The next day at work, I excitedly told my supervisor about it and asked when we were going hunting. She told me that it was now the season and she’d let me know. A few days later she gave me the news – “Wednesday night, we’re going. Be ready.” We were to meet up at Chelsea’s house with the group that was heading out. As Candi was working and her cousin, Apple, is in town I decided to bring her with me. We opted to take my car as there was a large group of people and this proved to be a wise decision as one group had to join with us when their car started overheating.
We loaded up and headed to South Church Street. Apple and I were introduced to the rest of the people with us, all police officers that I had been talking to for months but hadn’t met in person. All of them were super nice and very friendly. At first our hunting was going rather slowly. No crabs were seen. We walked along the roadway, shining lights into the bushes and listening for them. So we walked along and talked about moving to a new location until there was a great cry of excitement – “I see one! I seen one! Bring me a stick!” *The stick the grabber tool that is commonly used for trash collection on the side of the roadways and/or by people with limited mobility who need to retrieve things.*
Success! And it turns out that the stick wasn’t needed at all. Naddine simply held the crab down with her foot then reached down and picked it up by the rear legs. Of course, at this point we didn’t have a bucket with us (those guys hadn’t shown up yet) so we used an upside down traffic cone as a container. Next thing you know, everyone had gone into the bush and all we kept hearing was “Here’s one!” “Bring me a stick!” “Bucket! Bucket! Bucket!”
After the success in this area, we decided to move east. Three of the guys with us had to move to my car because their vehicle was overheating. It’s a good thing I have an SUV because my car also became the transportation for our haul. We had one large garbage can and two smaller buckets. As we drove along, we could hear the crabs scratching at the sides of the trash can and Apple did not care for the noise. Said that she was scared by it. I assured her that everything would be okay because if they managed to escape the can, they’d have to go through three grown men to get to her.
We stopped at a few more places as we headed east, but nothing was really panning out until we reached the area of Barefoot Beach. There were crabs in the road, crabs on the side of the road, crabs in the bushes. White crabs, red crabs, black crabs… Crabs everywhere. Some people picked them up with sticks, some people just reached down and grabbed them. I was taking pictures along the way but held one down so that Naddine could retrieve it. It was great, great fun. I have no clue how many were caught.
The group we went with divided the catch up amongst themselves. The next steps will be to purge the crabs before they cook and eat them. This is because land crabs are omnivorous scavengers and will eat anything. So they’ll be kept in a cage or something and will be fed clean vegetation to clean them out. I’m also told this makes the meat sweeter.
And while there were no crabs for me to help cook and clean this time, we’re planning another hunting trip with a much smaller group. A few days later, after they’re purged, then we will have a party and feast. And I am looking forward to that very, very much.