How to Catch a Japanese Kani Crab (with a string)

Japanese Kani Crab fishing catching in Japan with a string line

The first time I saw children catching a tiny kani crab in Japan, using only a net and some string, I was surprised. After a stressful (and somewhat unsuccessful) day of Job Hunting at the Japanese Tokyo Summer Career Forum, I was looking for a nice afternoon to unwind. We choose Kasairinkai Park, on the outskirts of Tokyo. The park itself is gorgeous with a nice view of Disneyland (across the bay) and the sea. It’s not exactly “clean” – which caused a couple problems since I was still in my shukatsu job hunting suit.

The first thing I noticed was the fact there was an abundant number of families (or even just groups of kids) playing by the rocks near the bay, holding a net, some string, and a plastic bucket.

The second thing I noticed was the fact that bucket was filled with small, grey crabs. These groups of children were fishing for Japanese kani crabs with only a line – and were catching buckets of them. We watched them catch crabs for a while. The process itself seemed simple enough:

Japanese Kani Crab fishing catching in Japan with a string line

How to Catch Japanese Kani Crabs using a String / Line

1. Get a semi-long string, some “bait”, a bucket, and a mesh net.

The bait can be anything you want it to be – most of the families I saw were using small, thin slices of lunch meat or cooked chicken. I’m guessing crabs in Japan like meat.

2. Find a rocky area of the beach.

And by rocky, I don’t mean “lots of little pebbles,” I mean “rocks that probably weigh more than you do” rocky. The place we saw was an artificial beach. The rocks had the skeletons of barnacles, the occasional dead fish, and plenty of gaps for the Japanese spider crabs to hide inside.

Japanese Kani Crab fishing catching in Japan with a string line

3. Tie the bait firmly onto the end of the string.

I think you really need to tie the bait here – a regular fishing hook probably won’t work (then again, maybe the only reason I didn’t see anyone using a legitimate fishing hook is the fact that fishing hooks are kind of dangerous for children).

4. Drop the bait in between the rocks.

Japanese crabs spend most of their time living at an average depth of 200 meters – far away from the shoreline. However, when it comes time to mate (in June and July), they will migrate to shallower waters. The baby crabs need the security; they thrive in waters of around 10 – 50 meters. They also need the warmth.

Japanese Kani Crab fishing catching in Japan with a string line

As a result, you can catch these adults crabs AND baby crabs during their mating season. They like to hide out in the rocky, coastal regions; as long as there is shallow(ish) water, and enormous rocks, you should be in luck.

5. Wait until you feel a crab tugging at the string.

When we were watching the kids, most only had to wait a minute or so before they got their first bite. Don’t freak out when a crab starts nibbling, though!

6. Slowly pull the string toward you.

This is the most important part. Japanese spider crabs do not like to be yanked at. When you feel a nibble, that means a crab has already latched on. Slowly, slowly start reeling your string in. Most of the time, the crab will stay firmly latched onto the string and bait. When you see the tip of the crab break the surface of the water – BANG, swoop in and catch it with your net.

Japanese Kani Crab fishing catching in Japan with a string line

7. Grab the kani crab with a fishing net.

Most of the kids we watched waited until the top half of the crab was out of the water – dangling from the line. They maneuvered the fishing net beneath the Japanese kani crab and pulled the net upward, capturing the crab.

8. Drop it in your bucket.

Congratulations! You’ve just successfully caught a Japanese kani spider crab! Make sure your bucket is full up shallow sea water – otherwise the poor crab will die…

9. Release the Japanese kani spider crabs back into the ocean.

Japanese Kani Crab fishing catching in Japan with a string line

I know, where’s the fun in that? Nonetheless, crab lining is a recreational activity. Most of the spider crabs you will find are too small to eat (if you had the heard to boil them alive). Crab fishing for Japanese crabs is a fun activity for couples, kids, families, and old people.

While it seems a bit of a waste to just release the crabs, I think it’s the best part.

Japanese Kani Crab fishing catching in Japan with a string line

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