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Male fiddler Crab with Large Claw

What is a Fiddler Crab?

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What is a Fiddler Crab? Why is it called a Fiddler Crab? Is a Fiddler crab good bait for fishing? How do you catch Fiddler Crabs? This is a brief and informative guide to all things Fiddler Crab!!

If you are visiting Hilton Head Island or anywhere in The Low Country, for that matter, you have probably heard of Fiddler Crabs. If you get anywhere near the salt marsh grass, you have probably already seen them. Creepy little guys, aren’t they?

Before you go grab a handful to add to your homemade Lowcountry Boil, just know, you are gross for even thinking about that. Fiddler crabs are amazing little creatures, but they are not the “eating” crabs one thinks about when they think about crabs. The eating crabs in The Low Country are Blue Crabs and Stone crabs. Fiddler crabs should only be delicious to fish like Black Drum and Sheepshead (more on those critters a bit later).

Fiddler crabs are crustaceans just like all of the other crabs out there along with shrimp, lobster, crayfish, and even the beloved “Roly Poly” (don’t eat them either). The Atlantic Sand Fiddler Crab is the proper name for what most people call a fiddler crab, but even most locals do not know that there are multiple species of these little fellas crawling around Hilton Head and Bluffton.

Different Species of Fiddler Crab

Uca Minax is the latin name for the Red Jointed Fiddler Crab. Uca Pugnax Is the latin name for the mud fiddler crab or the marsh fiddler crab. However, the latin name for the REAL Sand Fiddler crab is the Leptuca Pugilator (sounds like a new villain in Spiderman, right?) For the sake of my own sanity, lets just refer to the Uca Pugilator as the “fiddler crab” considering its really the one that “matters” when it comes to fishing.

These tiny guys can be found from as far north as Massachusetts all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. They normally create their own burrows on mudflats and sandflats in and around estuaries in coastal regions. Fiddler crabs are “Detritivores”, meaning they pick up the sand or pluff mud they live around and filter out the decaying matter within the soil. Basically, they feed and live off of all the dead stuff that’s mixed in the mud.

Each square acre of marsh holds over A MILLION fiddles crabs! With over a million crabs per square acre, all feeding on that decaying matter in the soil, imagine what would happen to the local environment and food chain if they were to suddenly not be here anymore. Pretty devastating, if you think about it.

Are Fiddler Crabs good bait?

Remember those fish I mentioned earlier? Let’s talk about them for a little bit. Pretty much everything eats fiddler crabs. Many different species of fish, lots of birds, and even Raccoons eat them. Some species of fish are very difficult to catch because their favorite foods are not readily available in stores. The Sheepshead fish is definitely one of those. Sheepshead are a pretty weird looking fish as you can see from the photos. Most people see those teeth and yell, “They have people teeth!” when we catch them on my charters in the winter and early spring. Those teeth are used to crush Barnacles, Muscles, small Oysters, and, of course, Fiddler Crabs.

If you get your hands on some fiddlers at a local bait shop, count your blessings. They are not easy to comeby, believe me. Most fishermen looking to target sheepshead will harvest their own fiddlers. That normally means digging. Lots, and lots, and lots of digging. You can sometimes spend three hours digging fiddlers up to get a couple hundred. It’s a sacrifice we make to get our customers one of the best tasting fish the salt water has to offer.