It feels a bit eerie to have critters crunching underfoot while walking along the beach. If you walk or run where the waves wash up and splash a little water as you go along, it is pretty common to step on one or perhaps many sand crabs.
These little critters spend much of their time digging down into the sand, to hide and to feed. Wave action, as waves recede and take sand with them, uncovers sand crabs and rolls them along with the water until they have a chance to dig vigorously and get back down into the sand.
Stu, a good customer at Hook, Line & Sinker fishing center in Santa Barbara, talked about the encounter while surf fishing. He said, “Some days lately, when I’m wading out in ankle deep water, I can actually feel sand crabs crunch underfoot, especially when a wave ebbs and removes the sand from over their heads.”
Stu is a knowledgeable surf fisher who knows the value of reaching down, scooping a handful out of the sand and sifting through them to find a soft-shelled sand crab and putting it on the hook for bait. Doing so can result in an instant hookup with a big barred surf perch or maybe a tasty corbina.
Sand crabs are hardy and plentiful. They serve in an important capacity in the food chain in that they eat stuff we don’t worry much about and they are eaten by things we care a great deal about. That is an essential position in the food chain and one that warrants careful monitoring.
They are kinda cool little critters, once you get used to them and the feeling of them in your hand. They range in size from about the size of the fingernail on your pinky finger on up to the size of your great toe.
So the next time you are playing, walking or jogging along the beach, right at the water’s edge, think about what is crunching under your feet. Reach down as a wave recedes and scoop some out of the sand to take a looksee. If you stop and watch some in action, you’ll see that they are really great at getting back down under the sand. They are fast little guys!
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.