Fly Fishing for Coastal Gamefish
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
The Fisherman's Coast approach focuses on how coastal gamefish interact with their habitats and prey. The more you know about the gamefish you pursue with a fly rod, the more often you'll be in the right place at the right time with the right fly making the right presentation. It's about catching more fish.
Our sister site Tribal Bonefish is all about conservation through responsible fishing. Tribal Bonefish shows you how to become a better steward of our coasts to protect our fisheries today, and ensure future generations get a chance to experience these fisheries.