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Don’t Worry, Be Crabby

How do you turn a scrawny chicken neck into a seafood feast? Tie a string around it. No, really. You can catch a boat load of blue crabs using any old chicken part tied to the end of a sturdy string. Take it to the nearest tidal creek, drop it in the water and wait. If there are any blue crabs in the vicinity, they will soon be high-tailing it to your piece of poultry. Give them a couple of minutes to latch on and then scoop them up with a net. Dinner awaits!

The tried-and-true chicken-on-a-string method is the preferred blue crab-catching technique of visitors and locals who don’t happen to have a crab pot handy. It’s simple, inexpensive and it works. Cooking them is just as easy. Throw them in a pot with a little water and a dash of Old Bay Seasoning. Steam for a few minutes, remove the meat and eat!

“The meat itself is so tasty, you don’t need anything else,” said Amy Tressler, curator of education at the Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton Head Island. “They’re spectacular.”

The museum offers a Blue Crab Discovery program that includes step-by-step instructions on how to harvest, cook and pick the meat off a crab. The two-hour class begins with a short talk on the life cycle of blue crabs and the role they play in the salt marsh ecosystem. Participants will then head out to one of the museum’s boardwalks overlooking Jarvis Creek to catch some crabs.

“We’ve got a pot set up outside with a propane tank for cooking the crabs,” Tressler said. “The docent will demonstrate how to crack the shell and pick the meat from the claws, legs and body. Everybody will get a tasting.”

Blue Crab Discovery is offered at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays through the end of August and possibly into September. The class fee is $15 for adults, $10 for children. Call (843) 689-6767, ext. 223, to make reservations. You can learn more about the program at www.coastaldiscovery.org. Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet also has a crabbing program that covers all the dos and don’ts for catching the tasty crustaceans. You won’t get to keep any of the crabs you catch, but you’ll get the scoop on the best spots to go crabbing in the area. The fee is just $3. Park entrance is an additional $5 for adults, $3 for children 6-15. Wear shoes you won’t mind getting wet or muddy. Get all the details on the “Crabbing” program at www.southcarolinaparks.com. You don’t need a license to catch crab if you’re using a string and raw chicken, but there are a few rules you’re required to follow. If you catch a crab measuring less than five inches across the widest part of its back, throw it back. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources also prohibits harvesting female crabs carrying egg sacs. The sac is bright orange and spongy and can be found on the crab’s abdomen.

Happy crabbing!

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