Whether it is your first time crabbing or not, this list will provide you with some helpful items that will definitely come in handy for your crabbing adventure.
You have a lot of different options when it comes to actually extracting the crabs from the water:
- Crab Pots – A wire trap with bait placed in the middle designed to capture foraging crabs.
- Crab Snares – A bait cage with six retractable loops that ensnare foraging crabs. Usually used with a fishing rod.
- Ring Crab Nets – Typically used on piers and from anchored boats, consists of two rings with netting that lies flat on the ocean floor. When retrieved the crabs become trapped in the netting.
- Dip Nets – A simple net that is used to actively scoop crabs from trot lines or from ocean floors.
- Trotlines – A system of capturing crabs, typically from a boat.
All of the above work very well, though most people prefer to use pots, snares and ring nets.
Attracting crabs to your trap is the next obvious step when crabbing. Most people tend to use chicken necks, but any kind of fish (preferably rotten) or even dog food can work in a pinch. We have a page specifically dedicated to crab baits if you’re interested.
A knife will almost always come in handy. You may need to cut some extra rope, cut a zip tie, cut out a bait pouch from burlap, who knows! I guarantee you will end up needing a knife at some point while crabbing.
Rope can be used to extend a crab line, which you may very well need to do when crabbing at a new location. You may not know exactly how high the pier is, and may need a longer line for your trap. Rope can also be use for many miscellaneous applications, and is pretty handy to have around.
Zip ties are a quick and easy way to secure things together. They can be useful in securing bait cages to your trap, among other uses.
Extra burlap and netting can be used to make a bait pouch with the use of zip ties or rope. You can cut out a square of burlap, add bait to the center, and tie the burlap into a pouch. I have had seals steal my bait cages many times, and you don’t want to be stuck out there with no way to attach bait to your trap. Being able to make your own bait pouches can save your crabbing day.
Pulling up traps all day can give you some nasty rope burn. Handling crabs can also lead to getting pinched or poked by incredibly sharp legs. Having a pair of heavy duty gloves can protect your hands from any danger. Bring a pair and thank me later.
We’ve gone ahead and reviewed all of the popular choices for crabbing gloves that you can buy right now!
A good pair of boots can really be the difference between a fun day of crabbing and a miserable, cold experience. If you plan on crabbing from a boat then it’s recommended you pick up a pair of deck boots to prevent you from slipping while simultaneously keeping your feet dry. Check out our review of the most popular crabbing boots on the market!
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not a huge fan of touching bait fish that has been sitting in the sun for hours and then not washing my hands. At many piers, clean bathrooms do not exist, and your hands may be disgusting by the end of the day. Hand sanitizer can help you keep somewhat clean and allow you to safely eat a snack.
Food and Water
Many times, I’ve forgotten to bring snacks and drinks when crabbing. It’s not a fun experience. Make sure you are not dehydrated and hungry, especially if you are crabbing all day.
Rocks/Weights (~1 lb)
Rocks can make or break your crabbing experience. In some locations, the surf is very rough, and the waves will bounce your crab trap around, which makes it very hard for crabs to crawl in. Throwing a rock or two into your crab trap can help anchor it to the bottom, allowing crabs to easily find your bait. I typically look around the pier for rocks, but sometimes you might have to wander for a while before you find any.
You need to store crabs somehow, and the easiest way is to use a bushel basket. A popular choice among commercial crabbers, it’s recommend you frequently wet the crabs down as it keeps them from overheating and dying. Their gills also need to be moist in order to breathe, so every so often just pour some water over the top of them and let it drip out the sides of the basket and you should be good to go!
If you don’t have a crab bushel basket we did some research and found the best ones you can pick up online.
You need to be able to accurately measure the size of your crabs. You can only keep crabs larger than 4 inches from tip to tip on their shell. A crab gauge allows you to accurately measure a crab’s size.
If you’re looking to pick one up, we went ahead and found the two best crab gauges for both Dungeness and Blue Crabs!
Once you have everything you will need, you have to decide how are you going to catch them? Do you have a boat? If so what kind is it? Lots of crabbers use a Jon boat. Made of aluminum, powered by an outboard motor and having a flat bottom, these boats can operate in very shallow water. Because they are small, they can carry a limited amount of gear.
They are also susceptible to tipping over in the wake of another boat and can be blown around by the wind more than a boat that has a keel.
Will you use traps or a trotline? If you plan to use traps, go to a good fishing shop. Many on the Eastern Shore carry traps. Decide on whether you will use small ones or the large ones. The large ones are generally placed in the water and left there for several hours. Generally you will not catch more with a large trap. If you have a small boat they are almost impossible to manage. The small traps will be placed in a line and run every few minutes. Keep up-to-date on the latest rules and regulations as to how many traps can be used; whether a license is needed, etc..
You will need lots of line and it should preferably be made of nylon that way it can be stored wet without deteriorating while maintaining a high tensile strength. If, for example, you plan to crab in 8 feet of water, cut about 9 feet of line. Tie one end to the trap and the other end to a float. You will have to have a float for each trap. You will know where the traps are located and so will other boats.
How about bait? You decide what you want to use. Try different things, chicken, eels, fish, etc. Fasten the bait inside the trap. See the bait page for a good rundown of which baits we recommend.
You will also need extra bait in case some is lost. If you have never crabbed before, ask someone who goes often for some tips and guidance. They will be glad to help.