Fiddler crabs (commonly referred to as calling crabs) are among the top bait choices for sheepshead and other species of fish. Living in mud and sand flats, these crabs dig small holes for hibernating, sleeping, refuge and mating purposes.
Scout out an area rich with fiddler crab burrows, dig a bucket-size hole, fill your bucket with bait, and move around coaxing crabs into your trap.
Look for them
Fiddler crabs can be found throughout saltwater marshlands, beaches and mud banks in saltwater environments – especially saltwater beaches – where sheepshead, redfish and other predator fish frequent. Fiddler crabs feed off of algae, bacteria and decaying marsh plants while being easily accessible by hand or with simple jig fishing tackle. Located throughout the United States – particularly coastal regions with soft sandy or muddy shorelines.
Fiddler crabs can often be found in saltwater marshlands, beaches and near structures such as piers or other structures which offer both protection at high tide and feeding areas during low tide. Furthermore, these creatures can often be seen near man-made wetlands such as golf courses marinas and sewage treatment plants.
Male fiddler crabs possess large claws which they use for fighting, mating and dancing (yes they really can dance!). Male fiddler crabs use cylindrical burrows dug by males to attract female fiddler crabs in order to mate every two weeks and incubate their eggs for approximately two weeks prior to hatching their eggs.
Once you have an established population of fiddler crabs, caring for them should be straightforward. Simply keep the tank clean and change out 20% of its water every few days; filter to reduce chlorine build-up while simulating brackish conditions; maintain temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit to replicate brackish conditions; add filters and thermometers from most pet stores to their tank as part of regular maintenance; purchase aquarium filters and thermometers separately to help with caretaking needs.
Finding fiddler crabs on your hook doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult; all it requires is patience and care. Start off with a number 1 owner hook, inserting its point into one of their legs or directly into their top shell – the goal being that its point lands near their big claw, where fish tend to chomp.
Once your fiddler crabs are on the hook, rig them similar to how you’d fish for sheepshead or redfish – using a bottom sweeper or Carolina rig with split shot weight placed a foot or so above it should work effectively.
Dig them up
Fiddler crabs are an invaluable source of bait for sheepshead, redfish, black drum and pompano fishing. You’ll often find these crustaceans roaming beaches, mud flats and other marine environments where they are housed in burrows exposed during low tide. Fiddler crabs are omnivorous; eating both plants and animal matter. Primarily eating worms, mollusks and algae; but also digest decaying organic debris from nearby environments.
Fiddler crabs can be easily caught by excavating them from their burrows – either manually or using a shovel in areas with soft soil. Being attentive is key; be wary of gaps in the sand where former fiddler crab burrows once were. Signs such as scattered sand or mud pellets outside their opening indicate fiddler crab presence in this space.
Setting a bucket trap can also be an effective way of catching fiddler crabs. This method works best during low tide when fiddler crabs leave their burrows to forage on newly exposed beach shorelines. After filling your bucket, hide or go elsewhere for 30-60 minutes before returning and checking back on it; they should have already come their own way and will climb into it!
If you’re searching for an alternative to bucket traps, pitfall traps might be worth your consideration. Easy to set, these rectangular containers usually consist of shallow rectangular compartments with lids secured on at least one side with rocks or objects and then baited with pieces of fish or shrimp to lure fiddler crabs inside before retrieving them later with hooks attached to long pieces of line.
No matter your experience level or the kind of fisher you are, knowing where and when to locate fiddler crabs is essential to success in sheepshead fishing. These little crustaceans provide delicious bait that can fill your cooler before heading out onto the water!
Turn them into bait
fiddler crabs make great live bait for red drum and sheepshead when rigged correctly, serving as efficient scavengers that devour whatever enters their waters and mud, including fish, shrimp, organic materials and much more. Furthermore, fiddler crabs tend to remain on hook more effectively than other forms of bait due to being very resistant to tampering.
To capture fiddler crabs, wait until low tide and head to any location where you have observed fiddler crabs at work – look out for small holes punched into creek banks or marshes; fiddler crabs should now be out searching for food along newly exposed areas along shorelines – then grab a bucket and dig a hole large enough for its top edge – fiddlers will soon come running for cover when your food source runs dry!
Once you’ve dug a hole, fill it with brackish water – this mimics what they would find naturally in their environment. You can purchase or create it yourself at home using salt mixed with dechlorinated water. Be sure to change out this water regularly because fungus or insufficient salinity levels could result in foul smells coming from it.
Fiddler crabs should be rigged using a number one owner hook inserted at the base and barely coming out in front. You may opt to use a jig head instead for more natural presentation; just be mindful not to extend its hook too long otherwise your fiddler crab may lose its ability to move and attract fish. Alternatively, use either knuckle hook or Carolina rig with caution as these may damage its hard shell shell as you do so.
Fiddler crabs require minimal care and can stay alive up to three years with proper care. Avoid leaving them out in direct sunlight as this may dry out their skin, leading them to eventually die. Instead, place them in an aquarium or cooler containing both sand and water for maximum survival; regular water changes will keep the crabs alive longer.
Run them around
At low tide along a salt marsh, it can be quite remarkable to witness thousands of fiddler crabs running freely on the ground at low tide. When approached, these small crustaceans scatter quickly in fear from what they perceive to be imminent danger (ie a human trampling the land beneath them), even though these fiddler crabs do indeed pinch soft skin but are otherwise harmless.
As they’re easy to catch, and can quickly become bait for fishing, making the task simple and cost effective. Simply place them in a bucket with some water (just don’t overdo it) and sand – then set off fishing!
Start by finding a spot along the beach where fiddler crabs have been seen living, then look out for any holes punched into creek banks that extend out into marshes at low tide. If you find clusters, dig a hole slightly larger than your bucket depth and place it inside it – but be wary as fiddlers have been known to pinch.
Once you have acquired some crabs, transfer them to an aquarium or plastic bin that can be sealed shut. Select an enclosure suitable for their number; too many crabs in too small a space can lead to fights amongst themselves and could trigger them to molt early. Add a layer of sand at the bottom and fill only enough water so as to cover about half the layer – ideally it should mimic their natural environment; pet stores often sell specialty sands that work great here.
Fiddler crabs are predatory predators in nature, feeding on organic material found in soil and water. When kept as pets, however, you can feed your fiddler crab nutritionally complete flakes or pellets specifically tailored for freshwater crabs – available at most pet stores that sell fish and crabs.
As for the water, brackish is what would best simulate their natural habitat. To create this effect, use an aquarium water conditioner that removes chlorine before adding enough aquarium salt for a specific gravity of between 1.05-1.001. Alternatively, try altering the pH levels in your tap water by adding baking soda or vinegar for temporary solution.