There has been a symbiotic relationship between Cromer and Crabs since the loss of the village of Shipden to the North Sea some seven hundred years ago lead to Cromer becoming a coastal town. The crabs, we all know, are the juiciest in…. the world, mainly due to their feeding ground being the largest chalk reef in Europe. The town has become famed for them and in the past it has been the main stay of the town’s economy. Now, it is the scene for the “World Pier Crabbing Championships” held on 30th August this year by The Cromer and Sheringham Crab and Lobster Festival.
Serious contenders and four-year-old children compete side-by-side to lure the biggest, and most crabs, while below the waves, crabs from miles around queue up to be sold the adrenaline rush of a lifetime; a sort of reverse bungee jump. Winning is, of course, everything and so, I’ve given a few tips below in ways to catch the best crab IN THE WORLD!!!
Bait The traditionalists go for bacon, those who don’t care about their kids getting salmonella, go for raw chicken. Also beef, pork, a salmon head, raw fish, worms, chorizo are all suggested. However, if you want to catch a really sophisticated crab, simply go for air-dried, oak-smoked salmon – smoked in a barrel of course.
Time the length of time to leave you line dangling is largely dependent on the number of crabs queuing for the line. Crabs queuing systems mirror those of theme parks throughout the world. There is, of course, a height restriction, a crab has to stand next to a scale attached to one of the pier’s supports and if it is not big enough, it cannot catch the line. Smaller crabs are only permitted to go on slow lifting lines, as fast lifting lines can result in crabs falling off halfway up and getting a bit of a shock when the hit the water.
Grip When observing a crab, you will note that the claws are at the front and they are pretty sharp. If you pick a crab up, do not pick it up from the front. In all seriousness, if you pick it up from the back and put your fingers too far under the crab, you might still get a nip, so hold it at the sides, where the claws can’t get you. Alternatively, you can just drop it onto the pier decking itself, scream hysterically, then, chase it around as it tries to find a stray shoe or open handbag to hide in.
Bucket The type of bucket you keep your crabs in must be deep. This is paramount to stop crabs escaping and infiltrating other buckets. Cromer crabs are known for their acrobatics, and since 1899, when the great explorer, Marco Crabo, returned from Spain with tales of the human tower competitions known as Castelles, Cromer crabs have been enthusiastically mimicking the tradition and can quite easily form Castelles of their own of up to 12 crabs high.
However seriously you choose to take crabbing, please be nice to the crabs, as they have served Cromer well for generations. And if you don’t fancy eating you crab, put it back; remember that it has queued for hours to get onto your line and as soon as it hits the water will probably be shouting, “Please can I have another go, Dad”.