John was tired of paying those high prices for bait, and so was I. They weren't really that high, but we didnt have the money at the time to afford what we needed. Between fishing and family, money was thin and we tried to scrimp and save.
So it was that we devised a way to catch our own bait this particular day. We actually drew up plans and constructed a method that we had both heard about but never attempted. We were going to catch our weight in fiddler crabs! Yes, those little sideways running dudes that roam the sandy flats at low tide were prime bait at this time of year. The sheepshead bite was on and fiddlers were like a steak dinner to them.
The plan went something like this: at low tide, while all the crabs are running around on the wet sand, we would dig a hole in the sand about 2 feet deep. Simple enough so far. Next we would take several one by four boards and form a V in the sand with the fulcrum of the V being the hole we dug. The boards would be set on their side, making a little fence on each side that ended at the hole in the sand. We figured one eight-foot board on each side would do the trick. The idea here is to herd the crabs into the funnel and ultimately into the hole in the sand! Simple, huh?
We hit the beach as the tide approached its low ebb and began looking for fiddlers. To our supreme satisfaction, they were everywhere! They were out roaming and eating, jumping in a close hole as any seagulls flew their way. Seagulls will willingly eat fiddlers, but even with as many crabs as we saw on the beach, we did not see the birds diving at them. We were both puzzled, but hey, what the heck, the crabs are here and so are we, so lets catch some bait!
First order of business? Dig the hole! Remember those great plans? No shovel! After a you do it, no, you do it discussion that lasted fifteen minutes, I got down on my hands and knees and began digging the hole no shovel, mind you, just bare hands.
It quickly became apparent that this hole was a bigger chore than we thought. First of all, it began filling with water coming up through the sand. Secondly, the water tended wash around and slope the sides of the hole. We needed a vertical side that would prevent anything from crawling out of the hole! We settled for what we had and went after the boards.
We wedged the boards into the sand and made a pretty good fence for each side of the V. Everything was set. Nothing to do now but heard the crabs!
Remember the TV commercial that came on during the Super Bowl that talked about herding cats? Keep that picture in your head.
As we approached the crabs, John started running out and around one way, and I started running the other way. Picture two nuts running around in the sand chasing crabs! We found out that they would do one of two things. If we walked slowly, they would simply move away slowly. If we ran or walked fast, they would dive into the first available hole. So here we go, each of us walking slowly toward the open end of the V with crabs moving ahead of us. This is where problem number two popped up.