It’s after dark and you’re sitting out on your balcony. You can see lights moving around down on the beach. You hear kids screaming and laughing. The lights are constantly moving only stopping briefly, every so often, then you hear screams and laughter. The lights take off again. If this is your first time to Destin, you probably have no idea of what’s going on down there. One of the biggest things to do after dark is ghost crabbing. Now, you’re probably thinking “surrrre”. “Is this like ‘cow tipping’ or ‘snipe hunting’?” Not at all, we can assure you it is real. And it is a fantastic way to let the kids run off all the sugar they just had at Shakes!
First, what are ghost crabs? Well, they are little white crabs (no more than 3 inches and smaller) that live on the beach. Their proper name is Ocypode Quadrata … yeah, ghost crab is much easier to remember. They are rarely seen during the daytime as they are nocturnal creatures. Like regular crabs, they have the little swiveley (is that even a word?) eyes that can turn 360 degrees. They have tiny little claws, but don’t be fooled, they can pinch the stew out of you if you aren’t careful. Their diet consists of clams, turtle eggs, sea turtle hatchlings, and other ….crabs. (What was that rumor about Mr. Crab’s crabby patties? Mystery solved. You’re welcome). They don’t live in the water but their little gills need to stay moist. The sand has moisture that helps them out with that. They are fast little suckers too, so be ready to move when you spot one!
The first step to a successful night of ghost crabbing is a trip to the Wal-Mark to pick up a few necessary items. Once there, head over to the beach section and pick up a wooden handle beach shovel, a little net also with a wooden handle, and a plastic sand bucket. Then, walk over to the flashlight aisle and pick up a cheap package of flashlights. These items shouldn’t cost more than $10. Once it gets dark, grab your recently purchased equipment and your little crabbing crew. Head down to the beach and turn your flashlights on.
When you begin your search, you probably won’t even know what you’re looking for until you see them. You’ll want to start looking midway to kind of right down by the water, but not in the water. They won’t be all over the place and sightings will be sporadic. You are looking for movement. It’ll almost look like you’ve kicked some sand but then you realize, it’s a little friend. This is when you yell, CRAB! While everyone else is screaming and jumping out of the way, the net-man (or woman!) will need to scoop him up. Catch it?? If so, dump him out into your bucket. This bucket is like your treasure trove. It is very important when it comes time to compare it with all the other crab hunters on the beach! And don’t worry, if you haven’t found any ghost crabs, you can always ask other hunters for help or tips. This is a very friendly sport enjoyed by all!.
The next step in ghost crabbing is a more advanced move. Once you have mastered catching them as they scurry sideways across the sand, you are now ready to look for them under the sand. Look for holes. The holes are smaller than the holes left by the beach umbrellas from earlier in the day. When you find one, dig! If there is one in there you’ll find them scrambling to dig back down or take off sideways across the beach. Even if you only found one or two, it’s been a great night and who knows you may hit the jackpot the next night! Once you are done, please make sure to release your little friends back into the sand. They will not survive as pets and they will smell to high heaven the next morning if you don’t let them go. Trust!
Ghost crabbing in Destin is a ton of fun. Family time and teamwork make it all the better, not to mention it wears the kids out. Those sweet angels will be asleep before their little halos hit the pillow… the same goes for mom and dad, too. Oh and just to let yall know, ghost crabbing isn’t strictly a kid sport. Plenty of adults go out and have fun on their own too!
If you and your family find this helpful, please let us know. Also, if you have pictures from your crabbing adventures, we’d love to see them – you can send them to us here.
We look forward to hearing from you!