No-Look Fiddler

bastard crab

Fiddler crabs live in burrows along protected shorelines, often at or near the high tide line. Many species feed on detritus that collects along the shoreline. Shallow, open bottom shorelines are favorite locations to use fiddler crab patterns. In the tropics and subtropics, black mangrove shorelines are prime habitats for using fiddler crab patterns. In warm temperate marshes, shallow sloping, open bottom shorelines along marsh creeks, and open areas among marsh grass in the Low Marsh are prime habitats. Care should be taken to tie small fiddler crab flies.

Red drum are especially fond of fiddler crabs. In the salt marshes of the Carolinas, for example, fiddler crabs are among the red drum’s most important diet items. In the southern part of the red drum’s range, fiddler crabs aren’t as important, but are still popular with red drum in the shallows. Snook will also eat fiddler crabs when the opportunity presents itself. And during high spring tides in the tropics, bonefish will push onto flooded shorelines in search of fiddler crabs. I think the reason fiddler crabs have not shown up in the couple bonefish diet studies thus far conducted is that these studies have not sampled bonefish feeding in flooded mangrove shorelines.

Fiddler crab coloration can vary greatly (even within a species), depending on local conditions and time of year. It’s a good practice to check on local color varieties when tying new patterns. Only males have the enlarged claw, which is used in courtship and territorial display. In most cases, the enlarged claw is brighter or lighter in color than the carapace, and the fly patterns shown below take this into account.

I use this pattern exclusively for red drum on open sand or mud bottom adjacent to black mangroves (black mangrove shorelines are often inhabited by fiddler crabs).


Hook: Mustad 34007, size 4
Tail: Brown marabou and gold Krystal flash
Body: Tan Puglisi fiber, tied cross-ways on hook shank, trimmed to shape
Weight: Dumbbell eyes, gold
Thread: Tan Danville flat waxed nylon


  • I tie this pattern in the style of Del Brown’s Merkin, but I like to use Puglisi fibers for this pattern rather than yarn – the fly lasts longer, and can be re-trimmed when it gets too bushy.
  • Pull a small bunch of Puglisi fiber off the main bundle, and roll it between your thumb and fingers so that it looks like a stretch of yarn.
  • Clip the rolled fiber bundle to appropriate lengths and tie in as with a standard Merkin pattern (fiber bundles laid perpendicular to the hook shank, tied in with a figure eight). 
  • The final step is to use scissors to trim the body flat – this can be repeated over time as the body becomes frayed with use.