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How to Catch Crab

Crabbing is a fun family activity from a boat or shore. And the payoff is big: the makings for a succulent meal. Find out how to have the optimal crabbing experience.

Shellfishing Regulations

Before you make plans to go crabbing, be sure to check with state’s regulations governing shellfishing. Like other types of fishing, there are often recreational crabbing license requirements and, in some places, record cards to track what you catch. Still other states enforce daily bag, possession, and size limits. If you catch and release, you’ll also need to pay attention to any rules about retaining the crab claws. For more information, check with the state’s fish and wildlife division.

Where to Catch Crab

Several species of crab can be found in saltwater and freshwater bodies throughout the United States.

Some of the most popular saltwater crabs to catch are the king and snow crab, which are common in Alaska, Dungeness on the West Coast, and the Atlantic blue crab, also commonly known as the Chesapeake blue crab. Saltwater crabs tend to like shallow, marshy areas so consider destinations like brackish rivers, bays and inlets. And while you can crab by boat, the great thing about crabbing is that you can have just as much success from land. Crab prefer to be near structures, so when planning your trip, look for spots like docks, piers, and jetties.

Freshwater crabs like fiddler and red crabs are best fished in shallow water near land. Common places you’ll find these species is along the shorelines with places to hide, such as beaches with logs, boulders or grass. Rocky reefs are another popular habitat.

Crabbing Equipment

What makes crabbing a great activity for beginners is that you don’t need a lot of special equipment. The simplest way to catch crabs is with a dip net. Another easy method is to drop a fishing line with bait at the end. Simply wait for a tug then pull the crab in, catching it in a net. The only downside with the line method is that you can only catch one crab at a time. For a greater take, you may want to use a crab trap.

Crab traps are wire cages attached to a long rope that are lowered to the bottom of a body of water. Depending on your preference – and budget – there are many different types that can be used effectively, including crab rings, pyramid traps, standard square style and more. With any of these, you’ll secure the bait inside with line, wire or a clip, which will attract the crab to walk into the trap. Once you set your trap, you just sit back and wait. A good rule of thumb is to check your trap every 15 to 30 minutes.

When you bring up the trap, you’ll want a net or bucket to contain the crab and keep them from scurrying away. You may also want to get a pair of crabbing gloves to avoid getting pinched.

Best Bait for Crabbing

Crabs are scavengers, which means you have a lot of possibilities for bait when crabbing. While there are many types, fresh bait tends to be best, and the smellier, the better, since crab will go after pungent options. Some good choices include raw chicken or turkey, fish carcass, and razor clams. You can even use hot dogs!