One of the best saltwater fishing baits on the face of the planet all too often gets ignored by anglers: “soft” blue crabs. Crabs grow by shedding their shell, and for a short period of time (less than a day) they’re covered in a paper-thin skin no tougher than that of an anchovy. Predator fish utterly love encountering a soft crab, and even relatively wimpy species that would usually flee an aggressive crab waving its pincer claws will attack and shred a softie without hesitation. Some anglers know this, and will use blue crab from time to time, but few use it regularly and many never even give it a try. Why isn’t soft crab more popular? A big part of the reason is that it’s so soft in the first place, which means it can be hard to keep on the hook. Think of trying to fish with a shelled oyster, and you’ll get the idea.
It takes some extra effort, but this is an easily fixed problem. First off, always thread your hook through the “knuckle” of one of the crab’s legs (where the leg joint attaches to the crab’s body). This is where the crab’s shell is toughest, from the moment it “molts” and becomes soft. Then, once the crab chunk is impaled on your hook cut an eight-inch length of elastic sewing thread (you can get it at any crafts shop or via Google) and wind it around the shank of the hook a few times while applying tension. Then go around the bait several times while applying minimal tension, then back around the hook shank. When you release tension on the elastic it will tighten up on itself, and hold itself in place – while also holding your bait together.
So, where should you be trying soft crab? Basically, anywhere you might try fishing shrimp or mullet for species like speckled trout and redfish. You’ll discover that soft crab is most effective around the time of a full moon (when crabs naturally shed their shells), particularly in bays, estuaries, and marshes.