About us ...
Gulf Breeze Fisheries is a family owned and operated commercial and charter crabbing business.
Rick Ulrich was born and raised in Daytona Beach, Florida where he spent a majority of his time fishing both inland and offshore waters in addition to surfing.
His wife, Dr. Melanie Ulrich, is a native of Cherry Hill, New Jersey and a professor of Biology and Microbiology at Florida SouthWestern State College, Fort Myers, Florida. While not in the classroom she spends her time on the water with Rick helping with the daily operations of the business.
Rick and Melanie met in graduate school, at Clemson University (1990s), where they both obtained their PhDs in microbiology (Go Tigers)! After more than a decade of biodefense research careers at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Melanie chose the classroom and Rick could never get away from his roots on the water and why he is a commercial crabber today.
The charter aspect of Gulf Breeze Fisheries began following the suggestions of guests we have taken out for a fun and laid back day of crabbing.
Our guests loved the trips and the hands on experience of commercial crabbing appealed to folks of all ages. The things we see (i.e. pelicans and dolphins) and catch each trip make every day on the water a unique experience, especially for children.
We soon realized that sharing these crabbing trips with both experienced and novice crabbers is a bundle of fun to say the very least.
Capt. Rick is patient, loves a good joke and is an experienced crabber that will provide your family with a safe and memorable day on the water.
Gulf Breeze Fisheries Recipes
Check back often for more recipes!
We are a commercial crabbing company located in Cape Coral, Fla. on the Caloosahatchee River, owned and operated by Captain Rick Ulrich and his wife, Melanie Ulrich.
Not only do we offer some of the best hard and soft-shell blue crabs on the west coast of Florida, we also provide custom blue crabbing charters throughout the year. This once in a lifetime experience lets you become a member of our crew while catching crab for various local restaurants and fish houses in the Lee county area. Most importantly, these blue crab charters will provide your family plentiful live blue crab for a delicious meal.
Experience what it’s like to be a crabber for the day!
Aboard the boat Rick will teach you about:
Not interested in being a crabbing mate?
How about sitting back while enjoying the scenery and wildlife of the Caloosahatchee River?
While relaxing and enjoying your charter you may see manatees (aka Seacows), osprey, egrets and herons. It’s not uncommon for dolphins to be playing in the boat’s wake or a pelican feeding off the boat deck. All of this while watching Rick catch your dinner fresh from the water.
Whether you are an experienced or novice crabber, Gulf Breeze Fisheries can plan a charter for your specific needs. Did we mention you are guaranteed to catch a delicious dinner?
Whether you are a novice crabber or expert, or just interested in crabbing in general you will find these links useful.
Crab gear websites
Crab boat links
The Gulf Breeze Fisheries commercial work boat “Mellie Bellie” is a 1988 25' C-Hawk powered with a 2008 Yamaha four stroke 250 hp engine. The vessel is USCG inspected and equipped with all safety provisions required by the USCG.
The boat contains a pilot house which helps to keep customers and crew out of the elements if need be and contains current electronics including a Garmin 740s GPS, Garmin 18 HD radar, two depth finders, and the Garmin GXM51 satellite weather and radio package.
The real-time weather on board adds an additional level of safety and the satellite radio allows for passengers to listen to any type of music, news (CNN/FOX/MSNBC), or sporting events (ESPN) they desire. The boat also has a small head (port-a-potty) in the pilot house, but remember it is a commercial crab boat, not a luxury motor yacht.
Gulf Breeze Fisheries has added an additional work boat to expand our crabbing capabilities. All charters are carried out on the "Mellie Bellie" above for comfort. Along with the purchase of this new vessel came a blue crab soft shell license, also known as the Florida “VS” endorsement.
We currently have 235 soft shell traps and 4 shedding tanks up and running. The boat, "Fish-Bone", is a 1998 22’ C-Hawk with a 2013 Yamaha 115 which is extremely fuel efficient.
The boat contains a small pilot house, livewell, raw water wash down, pot rack, an Electra-Dyne trap puller and all of the electronics that our larger work boat contains. The ability to harvest and produce soft shell blue crab greatly adds to our ability to supply blue crab to the Cape Coral and Fort Myers areas.
Ask any crabber on the water who has the best quality crabs and they all say that they do. Don't take our word for it though, here's what our customers have to say:
What our customers think:
I was trying to send you a message last night but I kept getting crab seasoning on my phone Lol. It was great meeting you and Melanie last night also! You both are awesome! Plan on us being friends and customers for a very very long time! :) The crabs were awesome, heavy and full of fat. They were so sweet and great! I did take some pics.
They were great!
Thank you !!!
Lenny and Jen, Ft. Myers
Lenny and Jen are great repeat customers of mine and Jen is a Maryland transplant. She knows and enjoys her Blue crab and will tell you such. Great folks and a pleasure to do business with, they both always have a big smile on their faces!
The reason for my dinner was to actually invite a few of my snowbird friends over as they get ready to head north. I have mentioned how the soft shells are out of this world if prepared and cooked properly. While I have lived here for over 57 years and eaten damn near everything the sea can produce these people have heard of but been afraid to dabble into the unknown of softshell "eating the entire thing" crabs. So entrusting me because of my life long experience of Fla seafood I had promised them that before they leave I would introduce them to a side of Fla seafood I call "Heaven". They actually asked me if I would make a dozen or so fresh shrimp in the event they were skittish about eating the crabs. At the end of the night I had10 shrimp left of the 15 I bought and the crabs were finished off as one husband and wife after fighting for the last one decide to cut it in half. They sat in disbelief
as to what they had just eaten and to how good it really was. We raised our wine glasses to Crabby Rick and Crabby Mel for the great work and fabulous product they provided us with. 5 new people are now spoiled on something they previously were afraid to order but now will look for it on a menu.
Thanks you guys,
Randy and Sue, Cape Coral, FL.
PS: sorry about not getting a picture. 5 minutes into the dinner when I remembered it was beyond too late. It would have been a classic picture of 5 snowbirds with a mouthful of softshell and reaching for more.
Randy and Sue have been down here in the SW Florida area for many years and are keen on their soft shell blue crab. Super customers and appreciate what it takes to get live soft shell crab right from peeler tanks on our docks to their dinner table.
Dear, mr. Rick and mrs. Melanie thank you for taking me on the boat today to catch crabs. I learned a lot. I sorted a lot of crabs and I learned how to tell which crabs are red or pink. I saw a lot of pelicans that tried to get our bait. I had so much fun, it was my best day of vacation.
We had the absolute pleasure to bring Ted and his family, including there 10 year old son Josh, out for a day of crabbing. I was under the gun for another local customer to produce 2 bushels of "Jimmy Crab" for a family party that day and informed Ted we were going to be moving fast.
He said bring it on, we are water folks and I'll be damned they were a great help on the boat. Little man Josh sorted crab all day for us and kept the birds out of our bait. Mom and Dad sat back and relaxed while we worked away. We even had a good 15-20 knot wind out of the East that day and not a peep from the crew. We had a blast and hope to see them back again soon.
Dear Rick and Melanie had a great time on the boat today.
I can't help thinking about the time I started my business 32 years ago. I had a 20 year old backhoe and bobcat, 2 trowel machines, and a great partner(wife).We worked very hard together on our passion and grew a great company.
It was very evident to me today that you share the passion for crabbing and more importantly the passion for each other. In speaking with Mel about her elaborate statistical analysis, and watching the two of you doing the crab catcher waltz, it is apparent you share the ying and yang for a happy life together.
We enjoyed the colossal crabs for dinner tonight, and I have a profound new respect for the effort required to have a crab feast! Thank you for inviting my family into your lives. Stay in touch.
Ted and family, Baltimore, MD.
Man oh man, where do I begin!?! We took a crabbing charter with Captain Rick and his wife, Melanie. I had no idea what I treat I was in for. We got up early and headed out to go crabbing on the Caloosahatchee River, in Cape Coral, FL.
Using GPS, Captain Rick went straight to his nearest set of crab pots (he has over 700!). I was given my own set of gloves, boots and apron to wear. I was ready to work! Before I knew it, we were catching big blue crabs. The cool thing about this charter is that the captain makes the experience as involved as you want it to be.
If you want to help pull crab pots, he will teach you how to do it. Of perhaps if you want to take in the scenery and watch him and his crew work, you can do that too. We caught over 80lbs of blue crabs in a matter of hours. Most were sold to market, but we kept the bigger ones for our own crab feast.
This experience was truly a blast. I highly recommend booking a crabbing charter with Captain Rick if you are ever in the Cape Coral area. It’s worth it!
Langston is one of those curious individuals that has a passion for the water, especially fishing and crabbing. He also enjoys sharing his travels with the public and took a trip from MD down to SW FL to commercial crab with us. His brother joined us and they actually stayed the night in our home and what a wonderful time we had. The best guys one could ever meet. After one hour of showing them the ropes I gave the boat over to Langston and he ran it for the rest of the day. I was more than impressed, him and his brother did a remarkable job. He is in the process of completing the documentary on "crabbing in Florida" from start to finish. It was a pleasure to have him and his brother on our boats and in our home, we hope they can stay longer next time.
We took Captain Rick's sunset canal cruise of Cape Coral then boated across the river for dinner in Ft. Myers. On our return, we enjoyed the moonlight on the river while Captain Rick used his advanced radar and GPS equipment to see us safely home. It was a highlight of our vacation.
- Sue L. from Ohio
What a great experience. Rick and Melanie were friendly and had so many interesting facts to share. We learned a lot, experienced the river and its wildlife, and had fun. Couldn't have been better.
- Roger from Ohio
Roger and Sue are friends that we met while they were vacationing in Cape Coral. Turns out I was working on gear in our driveway and Sue was going out for a walk and introduced herself and asked if we take people out on our boats.
I said of course and Mel and I brought her and Dr. Roger, her husband, out for a great day on the water. They were a lot of fun and Dr. Roger worked his tail off dumping traps for me. At the end of the day I scheduled to sell our catch at the Edison bridge in Ft. Myers and on the way we got greeted with a family of dolphins, we could literally touch them at the stern of my boat. Great way to end a day of work with great friends.
We thoroughly enjoyed a sunset cruise with Captain Rick and Dr. Melanie!
When visiting friends who were staying at a canal-front home, we were going to bring our boat, but the weather did not look promising, so boat stayed behind. The sunset cruise was a better, hassle-free option.
There was a break in the weather and Rick came by in the “Mellie Bellie” to pick us all up. He gave us a delightful tour of Cape Coral canals and then expertly navigated a Caloosahatchee River crossing to Fort Myers.
We felt safe on our return as Captain Rick had all the right equipment and skills to cruise home after dark. What a delightful option and a huge savings of time and expense to take advantage of staying at a Florida canal home. Thanks a bunch!
- Jim and Connie – Gainesville, Florida
Captain Rick and Mel took my wife and I out on their boat to catch crabs last summer (2012). They baited a trotline with chicken necks, tossed it in the water, and we used a dip net to scoop up crabs as the boat moved down the line.
We caught nearly a bushel of large Jimmies and had quite a feast that evening. It was a blast! Captain Rick and Mel are a pleasure to be around and are extremely knowledgeable about boating, crabbing, and fishing.
- David and Jillian - Frederick, Maryland
Rick the crab was great, nice and full and we will have you and Melanie over once our summer travels are done. Thanks again.
Bob and Kathy
Bob and Kathy are Maryland folks that retired to the Cape Coral and still have a love for Blue Crab. They sure know how to cook crab and throw a party. They were referred to us from another Maryland customer of ours. Now they are repeat customers that we enjoy doing business with.
Bob also has a love for the water and I look forward to taking him and his grandchildren out for a day of crabbing on the river.
Len & Jen
Randy & Sue
'Little Man' Josh
Ted & family
Roger & Sue
Jim & Connie
David & Jillian
Bob & Kathy
Gulf Breeze Fisheries will customize charters for your pleasure as well as education.
Become a member of the crew for the day or just sit back and enjoy the beauty we've come to love during a 'work' day on the Caloosahatchee River.
Personalized Charter info:
Capt. Rick is back on the water
We've resumed our charters. Please contact us for more information.
Not every day can be full of sunshine when we are out on the boat.
Rick is all smiles after brining up a full crab trap.
Full traps after a full day on the water.
Getting ready to enjoy the fruits of our labors with a bushel of crabs.
Taking out a crab, you can see the bubbles its blowing.
A beautiful sunset on the river.
We always seem to be picking up a hitchhiker on the water!
Heading home and just passing under the Cape Coral Parkway bridge.
Another beautiful sunrise while passing through the canals.
Mel is making friends or is she giving me the bird?
Some of our favorite images that have captured the unique life of being a crabber
These are our most favorite pictures and you can view them just click on the thumbnails below to see them.
Use these links to see hundreds of pictures that we've taken over the years.
Come back often for new images:
Now that you have some excellent seafood, here are some of our favorite recipes that you may enjoy. Click the link for a printable file with all the recipes you see below from our kitchen and some of our customer kitchens:
Soft and hard shell Blue Crabs
How to identify peeler crabs i.e pink versus red signs
How to haul and bait crab traps
How the crabs are graded for the seafood market
A useful forum for anyone whether you a Crab Boat Captain or just want to learn more about crabs. Friendly forum where you can ask any crabbing question.
This Florida distributor stocks everything you need to fish/crab on a recreational or commercial scale.
For ease, this is the puller installed on our work boat. It is slower, but does a great job. The boom keeps the hull of the boat from getting beat up by crab traps in rough weather.
Phil at Chesapeake Winder builds a trotline winder that is plug and play. It is more for the recreational crabber but his winder works great on those hot summer days when you just do not have the energy to pull in a 1000 feet or more of trotline.
Trailer parts aren't the only things they stock but also provide a range of crabbing supplies.
I have one of their propsticks for trotlining and it works great.
Pressure washer turbo head adapter. For the commercial crabber this company sells great products. The turbo nozzle sells for $79.00 and helps clean a dirty trap in minutes, literally.
A crabbing supplier located in North East, MD and provides a diverse range of recreational and commercial crabbing supplies, including bait.
A Florida supplier of commercial crabbing supplies and is located in Jacksonville, Florida.
These pullers are more high-end and are work horses. Requires more thought for the install, but are super.
A Florida supplier of commercial crabbing supplies and is located in Jacksonville, Florida.
A supplier of extensive products for the commercial fisherman.
A great boating and fishing forum that contains a diverse range of subscribers that can answer any of your boating questions. It is free to join the forum and well worth it.
These folks are a Tampa Bay and Central Florida specialized food service purveyor servicing the Gulf Coast. You can purchase chicken necks by the case which makes for great crab bait for recreational crabbing.
When threatened, a blue crab
will use its claws for protection while moving sideways to
escape the predator
The scientific name of
a blue crab is Callinecttes sapidue, which is Latin for 'beautiful Savory Swimmer'. Female blue crabs have red tipped claws.
The bottom dwelling blue crab will use beds of aquatic grass as a source of food, a nursery for their young and shelter when they molt or mate.
What to bring?
Payment & Terms
Rollover here to see where you'll crab on the river.
A flat rate of $300.00 for a 4-6 hour crabbing charter accommodating up to 6 passengers is our standard trip. A $50.00 deposit is required. From our experience a 6 hour charter provides ample time for plenty of pictures and boat running time to the crabbing locations. A 6 hour trip will entail ~4 hours of actual crabbing which means pulling and baiting traps, sorting crabs, sightseeing and catching your dinner. If Rick gets into the crabs while on a charter, which normally happens, trips can be extended at no charge for the avid waterman up to 8 hours, however this is at the customer's request. This is your custom charter and Rick will tailor it to your desires and needs.
A day in the life of a crabber
For your charter, Rick will thaw bait and fuel the boat the day before your trip. It is recommended that your party meets at the dock by
8:00 am or so, especially in the summer months as it gets hot early. This is your charter and we can even cater to afternoon trips if needed. The Southwest Florida sunsets are just amazing.
Gulf Breeze Fisheries also provides sunset cruises on the Caloosahatchee River.
Enjoy a relaxing 3 hour cruise while taking in the breathtaking Southwest Florida sunsets. Depending on the time of year we will either travel north of the Veterans Memorial Bridge towards downtown Fort Myers or south of the Cape Coral Bridge in the direction of the Gulf of Mexico. These areas of the Caloosahatchee River provide beautiful locations to take in sunsets.
Bring your choice of snacks, drinks and, most importantly, a camera and you will be sure to have a relaxing and fantastic evening on the water. Boat departure times vary and depend on the time of year, generally 1 hour before sunset.
A flat rate for up to six people is $180.00 for a sunset cruise. A $25.00 deposit is required. Times are flexible and we are never in a rush to get back to the dock, our goal is making sure you have a pleasurable and safe evening taking in the Southwest Florida sunset as well as the marine life of the Caloosahatchee River.
The Cape Coral and Fort Myers, Florida area provides residents and visitors a laid-back lifestyle, year-round boating, world renowned fishing and crabbing locations, in addition to endless sandy beaches and gorgeous sunsets. Both cities are known for amazing waterfront homes with the Caloosahatchee River splitting the two cities.
Captain Rick also provides private charters for customers who are contemplating purchasing a waterfront property in Lee County. He will teach you how to navigate the canals out to the Caloosahatchee River and provide hands-on experience regarding what to look for if you intend to purchase a home where you will dock a boat. While searching for our home in Cape Coral we conducted a "drive by" via water for any property we were considering to determine the time to the Caloosahatchee River/Gulf access and the condition of the surrounding waterways and waterfront homes. Doing this we quickly eliminated several properties that looked great from the street but didn't have the characteristics we were looking for from the water.
What we provide:
Ice and bottled water
All crabbing gear and licenses
For a nominal fee and with advance notice we will cook your crab for you
Basic snacks such as fruit, cheese, crackers, granola bars, etc.
Knowledge of the local crabbing grounds
What to bring:
Sun protection is important including lotion (no spray-makes the boat deck slippery), sun glasses, a hat, etc. We always carry extra supplies on the boat but bringing your choice of lotions and personal gear makes your trip more pleasurable.
A camera is a must and the boat has two DC camera and cell phone chargers for your convenience.
A few sandwiches are always a good idea, especially if the charter is extended.
Feel free to bring along your choice of juices, soda, beer and wine.
Slip on shoes are a good choice as the boat deck tends to get wet.
If it seems chilly on land it will be much cooler on the water. We suggest wearing warmer clothing, you can always take warmer clothing off as the day progresses.
Do bring some older clothes if you intend on being a hands-on mate on the work boat, as it tends to be muddy.
What not to bring:
No coolers, we have a large cooler that fits on the boat deck nicely and provides adequate storage.
We have a no tolerance policy for drugs and firearms on board the work boat and our property. We are fortunate to have our docks located at our home and respect for that is more than appreciated.
Our terms and conditions:
Due to the fluctuating weather in Southwest Florida, charters may be canceled or rescheduled at the discretion of Capt. Rick. Your safety is of the utmost importance and we want to create a pleasurable adventure for you, your family and friends.
It is rare that this occurs, but if it does happen you will be refunded the full amount you have paid for any deposits. We will provide notice to you as soon as a trip is determined to be canceled, normally within two hours of departure time.
We understand unforeseen circumstances arise but a 24 hour notice is appreciated for customer cancellations. If fair notice is given your deposit will be refunded in full.
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