Hermit crab are native to the UK and found across the whole of the British Isles. They can be a great bait for a range of species with flounder and plaice readily taking smaller hermit crab, and larger hermits accounting for large cod, bass and smooth-hounds. Despite this they are a fairly rarely used bait in British sea angling.
Life Cycle of a Hermit Crab
There are actually around fifteen species of hermit crab found in the UK, with the most numerous being the aptly-named common hermit crab (Pagurus bernhardus). The hermit crab is born without a shell and never develops one at any point in its life. The hermit crab is therefore much more vulnerable to predators than other crab species but makes up for this by finding an empty shell and climbing inside. The hermit will crawl around with the shell on its back and will only leave when it grows too big for this shell and has to find a new, larger shell. Like all British crab species the hermit crab is a scavenger and will look for dead and dying forms of marine life and feed on them. Many smaller hermit crabs live in the inter-tidal area of sandy and mixed beaches, with larger specimens found in deeper water.
Finding and Buying Hermit Crab
While hermit crab are common around the UK it can prove difficult to collect them. The best time is at low tide after a storm when hermit crabs will have been dislodged from their home. There is no trick to finding them and gathering them has to be done by searching through rock pools and around seaweed covered rocks for any shells and then looking inside to see if a hermit crab is present. This can be hard work, and even a long session can produce only a few hermit crabs. Furthermore, the average size of hermit crabs found in rock pools and around the low tide mark can be very small indeed, as the larger specimens generally live in deeper water. However, hermit crabs are available in frozen form, and while tackle shops rarely stock this bait there is a whole range of on-line frozen bait dealers which will supply frozen hermit crabs by mail order. They are not particularly expensive and most anglers find it a lot easier to order frozen hermit crab online rather than try and gather this bait themselves.
Hermit Crab Bait Presentation
If fresh, live hermit crabs have been gathered they can be removed from their shells by placing them into a container full of tap water. They cannot tolerate the low salinity level and come out of their shell in an attempt to escape this. If they are bought frozen they may come supplied de-shelled, or might have to be broken out of shells. Baiting up with a hermit crab is easy. Simply take the crab and push the hookpoint through its tail and all of the way through the crab’s body and out through the legs. If the hermit crab are very small it may be better to make them into a cocktail bait with another bait such as ragworm. Larger hermit crabs can be used singly, although it is a good idea to secure them to the hook with bait elastic or cotton.