Fresh trout sizzling in butter. Plump shrimp simmering in stew. Tender chunks of crabmeat nestled in savory cream sauce in a bed of penne pasta.
Sound scrumptious? Most coastal natives would agree. They’d also insist that these treats taste even better when you’ve caught them yourself. After all, for seafood, freshness is key. And it doesn’t get any fresher than “right off the hook” or “straight outta the net.”
Fortunately, catching your own seafood is easy, even if you’ve never done it before. Especially here at Sandbridge Beach, VA, where choice fish and shellfish abound.
And remember, if all else fails, you can always pick up some delectable dainties at Sandbridge Seaside Market… or some tasty takeout at Simply Steamed and other local eateries.
How to Catch Your Own Shrimp
You’ll need a Cast Net License, which you can easily obtain for a modest annual fee, either online, by phone or mail, or from any licensing agent. Where can you find a license agent? Try any larger Virginia tackle shop. Just ask!
If you’re shrimping during the day in the brackish waters of Back Bay, use a cast net with wide sewn-on webbing and heavy-duty sinker weights, readily available online and at most bait-and-tackle shops.
- Add a little shrimp meal as bait – shrimp love it!
- Cast your net into deeper waters – about 25 to 30 feet deep. (Shrimp stay close to the bottom in the daytime.)
- Make sure the net sinks all the way to the bottom.
- “Jig” (tug, shake) the line a few times.
- Then draw the net up and empty contents into a bucket.
You should net a few dozen shrimp per cast. Separate out the smaller ones to use as fish bait. Keep the larger ones for dinner.
If you’re shrimping at night in saltwater, use a flashlight or small lantern to attract shrimp to the surface. Then use a long-handled dip net to nab your catch.
Wash, peel, and you’re ready to cook!
How to Catch Your Own Crabs
The warm ocean waters off of Sandbridge Beach teem with tasty Atlantic Blue Crabs, especially when the tide’s coming in. What’s more, it’s surprisingly simple to snag these carnivorous critters. They love chicken wings, turkey necks, and other inexpensive meats, so baiting is a breeze! Just be sure to tie your bait securely to your net, so it won’t float away in the tide.
If you’re crabbing along the shore, use any standard long-handled dip net. You can even purchase colorful kiddie nets for your little ones. They’ll have a blast!
If you’re crabbing from Little Island Pier, you’ll need a cast net or crab net attached to a longish rope line. Be sure to wear gloves – coarse rope can be hard on your hands!
Bait your net with some tantalizing chicken pieces, lower it into the water, wait a few moments, then draw it out. On most days, when the water’s moving, you should catch one or two crabs per cast.
No license is required for crabbing with a standard dip or cast net, unless your catch exceeds two dozen hard crabs or one dozen soft crabs or peelers. In that case, you’ll need a recreational license. A license is also required if you’re using collapsible crab traps, eel pots, net rings, seines, or trotlines.
Then There’s the Fishing
You’ll find fresh fish aplenty right around Sandbridge Beach. Cast your line right from the shore for saltwater favorites like flounder and sea trout. Or try fishing nearby Back Bay for crappie, largemouth bass, and more.
You’ll need a freshwater or saltwater fishing license, depending on which waters you fish. Or, you can simply fish from Little Island Pier, which is covered by its own blanket license. For $8 per day (Virginia residents) or $10 (non-residents), you can cast your line from the pier to your heart’s content. (Weekly and annual passes are also available.)
You’ve Caught Your Catch. Now What?
It’s up to you! Your seafood meals can be as simple or as elaborate as you like.
Boil or grill peeled shrimp and serve with tangy cocktail sauce. Or fold into delectable dishes such as Shrimp Jambalaya, Shrimp Etouffee, Shrimp Alfredo, or Seafood Gumbo.
Cook fresh Blue Crabs in boiling water, then serve hot with melted drawn butter. Or mix the cooked meat into savory delicacies such as Crab Louis or She-Crab Bisque. Even try your hand at mouthwatering Maryland Crab Cakes. You’ll find countless recipes online!
What about fish recipes? The sea’s the limit! Grill, fry, broil, or bake and serve with traditional coleslaw, hush puppies, or anything else that strikes your fancy.
Visit Sandbridge Beach and Taste for Yourself
Whether you catch your seafood, buy it, or order it, there’s no better place to enjoy it than Sandbridge Beach, VA. So, pack up the car, gather the fam, and head off to this serene, secluded seaside retreat.