Blown Away by Competitive Crabbing in Hampshire
My family and I were clueless crabbers until Saturday June 18th, when we headed to Hampshire amid gales and driving rain to the River Hamble’s Annual Crabbing Competition, 2011.
As we joined the queue of eager crabbers, from toddlers to teens, we couldn’t have received a better welcome from the Harbour Master’s Office in Warsash on the Solent. Platefuls of cakes and coffee were laid on to help crabbers get cracking and proceeds from the event went to the Simon Says charity.
Like two bright red jelly babies in their waterproofs our boys, aged 5 and 3, waited with baited breath for the 11.30 start; their hearts set on the big prizes for: Netting the most crabs, the largest crab, and the special prize for catching a cool crustacean daubed with hot pink nail polish!
We had a tip-off from the Harbour Master to pitch near a wall where the crabs were more likely to lurk when the tide came in. Next we practised getting our weighted bacon bait bag down to the sea floor, so the crabs could grab on with ease.
Other tips: Avoid seaweed and when you’ve bagged a crab, pull the line up slowly so he doesn’t fall off into the sea. The boys’ fishing nets were also a huge help.
We paid £5 for our crab kits (line, bait and bucket) and competition entry; for those with their own kit registration was £2.50. I got crab-net envy when I saw the regulars reeling them in by their dozens; my boys were too happy to care!
My eldest was into precision line-dropping but the poor thing had me helping him. Meanwhile his Dad, aiding our youngest, was pulling the most in (competitive Dad? Oh yes!). He even got the first catch of the day! Everyone looked round and laughed; the atmosphere was fantastic.
The crabs nipped off after an hour having moved nearer another sea wall. We followed in hot pursuit and suddenly they were taking the bait again.
A little girl called Maddie caught the only crab with pink polish and was delighted with her prize of a Teddy; this unleashed my eldest’s competitive streak…
As a family we were proud to catch nine crabs while another family beat us by over 40!
We competitors stuck it out through rain and shine and when the final horn went, 90 minutes later, the winners were announced.
A beaming Charlotte Sutherden, whose little sister Hollie had won in the Under 7s category, was the overall winner of the day.
Charlotte netted the most crabs, 32 in all, including the largest crab which was 71mm wide. David the Harbour Master, or rather CrabMeister, awarded her with a gold cup and every competitor received a certificate, lollies and a sea creature key ring!
The facilities at Warsash are great – there’s free parking for four hours in two car parks within 50m of the Harbour Master’s Office, one of which houses the public loos; there’s a pub ‘The Rising Sun’, which was heaving and, for really energetic families, we were recommended a lovely walk around the River Hamble from Warsash to Hamble, which culminates in a short river ferry ride back to the Harbour Master’s Office and the car park.
There is another great crabbing spot about 20 minutes drive away at the Manor Farm Country Park, which is a superb family day out in itself.
It may have been our first time crabbing, but I’m stringing you no line… like the crabs we’re hooked!