The ubiquitous green crab when in full marching order—that is to say, with all its armour on—is not much used as a hook bait, but is extremely valuable when pounded up as a ground bait. Crushed and commingled with raw potatoes, it is thrown in over the smelt net. I have so often found infantile crabs inside fish I have taken, that there is little doubt one of these minute creatures about the size of a sixpence, or a little larger, would be a very good hook bait; but I have never used them, owing to the difficulty of obtaining a sufficient quantity. When the shelly armour has been cast away, and pending the growth of another, the crab is excellent as a hook bait. During this period it hides in any safe, and sometimes unsafe, nook or cranny. I have heard of people taking a mean advantage of these poor creatures by placing in estuaries and harbours a number of artificial resting places, into which the unsuspecting crabs enter for the purpose of changing their shells, there to be collected from time to time by the heartless bait-catcher.
There are few fish which will not take soft crab ; flounders and bass are particularly fond of this. Crabs are also a good bait in brackish water for silver eels. They, of course, have to be cut up into pieces of suitable size, according to what we are fishing for. Another use for them is to bait prawn nets. On the whole, they should be borne in mind and in bait box, and used whenever occasion offers.
Almost, if not quite, as good a bait is that extremely curious little creature known as the hermit, soldier, or farmer crab. I have something to say about him in the chapter on Shell Fish. Suffice it now that he is usually found contained as to his body in a whelk shell. This soft, corkscrew-like body and tail of his form an excellent bait, and to obtain them his shell must be gently broken. It very often happens that curled up by the tip of his tail in the innermost recesses of the shell will be found a somewhat large worm, akin to the ragworm of the harbour. This peculiarly situated creature is also a good bait for most kinds of fish. The tail of the hermit crab is much appreciated by flat fish, codling, haddock, etc. Hermit crabs are obtainable from trawlers and the owners of lobster pots. A few may be found among the rocks at low tide, and occasionally one will take a hook bait and be lifted into the boat.
Several kinds of anemones are used as baits for sea fish, but the difficulty generally is to obtain a sufficient number of them. There is in particular one called by the fishermen ' crass '—a thick, firm, fleshy creature of a dull red or salmon tint, which often grows to a large size. It is so firm that when large enough it can be cut up into several baits. Cod and many bottom-feeding fish take it readily enough.
Cuttle fish and Octopus I have generally described in the remarks on Squid (p. 122).