Crabbing in Whitby Harbour, a great family activity

Crabbing in Whitby Harbour has been the pastime of youngsters in the town for a million generations.

Next to Whitby Bridge is a designated harbour fishing area where 99% of those ‘fishing’ are trying to catch crabs on simple hand-held lines. Called ‘doggering’ (1) by locals, this simple activity comprises of a single fishing line, small weight to sink the bait, a juicy piece of bait (bacon rind, tinned mackerel in oil or, highly recommended – a fish head), no hook needed, and for mums and dads a more than your average amount of patience … but the babes will love it!

Insider tip 1: the kids will want to check their crabbing line every 60 seconds, but leave the line for 5 minutes, which should give time for the crabs to come out, sniff around and then decide on whether to dine on your offerings or scuttle back under the seaweed.

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Insider tip 2: despite what others say, don’t be in a hurry to bring up your fishing line. Slowly and gently is the key. Harbour crabs are very quick to sense excessive or unusual movement and will go into defensive mode and let go of the bait if alarmed.

Care of the Whitby harbour crabs

Harbour crabs are only small and are not edible. ‘Fishing’ for them provides endless enjoyment for youngsters who are keen to ‘catch..’ Treat these crabs carefully and gently. If you wish to keep any ‘captives’ in a bucket for an hour or more, please put some seaweed in as well because our little friends live at the darkened bottom of the harbour and are not comfortable with sunlight. When your ‘fishing’ is over, please return the harbour crabs to their home, gently and carefully.

(1) ‘doggering’ :   pronounced   ‘ dog…errr …ing ‘  –   The Whitby term for red harbour crabs is ‘doggers’

Share your “doggering” techniques in the comments below.

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