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🦀 How To Catch Blue Crabs

Blue crab traps come in many shapes, sizes and designs but all of them have the same purpose and that is to catch as many blue crabs as possible. One thing that you do find with these traps over normal crab traps is that they almost all have as cage or wire wall to surround the crabs and stop them escaping.

Methods of catching range from large commercial traps to the recreational trap, bare potting, jimmy potting, peeler potting, crab rings, trotlines, dip nets, drop nets, collapsible traps, scraping and drop lines.

Blue Crab Pots

Pots are a great and inexpensive choice for catching blue crabs. They’re light, easy to carry and very easy to use – simply cast the pot with the bait tray loaded up, wait 20 minutes and pull it up as fast as you can. You just need to make sure that the blue crabs can’t escape through the holes in the netting, which is why we recommend:

Protoco Economy Crab Ring

  • Steel frame.
  • Comes with a small screen bait box.
  • 28″ opening.
  • Holds 55 pounds.
  • Perfect for blue crabs.
  • Price:

This crab pot is an excellent choice to catch blue crabs. It’s wide opening, thick netting and is extremely deep allowing for great catches. The ring is made of stainless steel and, like the netting, is coated with polyethylene to prevent any corrosion.

If you’re a beginner, this is definitely the best option. Just be sure to pull up the trap as fast as you can to prevent any escapes.

Pros
  • Net is very thick and coated to prevent corrosion.
  • Very deep to prevent blue crabs from escaping.
  • Very inexpensive.
  • Comes with a baitbox.

Cons
  • Doesn’t come with a drop rope.
  • Bait cage can be tricky to open.

Step-By-Step Instructions

  1. Prepare your Crab Pot – Check your state fishing laws to avoid penalties and problems with authority prior to your crabbing expedition. Often, certain regions may not allow certain pots (depending on the size of its holes) for turtle protection and conservation of undersized crabs.
  2. Prepare the Bait – If you’re unsure which bait to use you can check out our page on the best bait for crabs.
  3. Prepare your Rope and a Buoy – See our page on crab floats for more information.
  4. Bait the Crab PotStuff whichever bait you’ve chosen into the bait box.
  5. Sink the Pot Crab in the Water – You may submerge it on the shore, off the deck, or while you’re on a boat.
  6. Check – Wait for 30 minutes after submerging your pot and check if there are crabs around. If there’s none, transfer to another area and do the process again. As a tip, crabs are usually found in areas with moving water, e.g. inlet and lagoons.

Blue Crab Traps

Catching blue crabs can be accomplished using many different methods; the most popular is the crab trap, a device dating back to Virginia in the 1920s. The type of trap pictured has a line attached to each of four sides. They in turn are tied together at the top. A line is then tied at this point and a float attached to the end of the line.

The trap is made of wire coated with vinyl to prevent deteriorating. It consists of 6 sides: a top, bottom and four sides which open.All the sides of the crab trap open when the line is released of any tension.

NOTE: Always use nylon line as it will stretch and can be stored wet without deteriorating. Bait is attached to the bottom of the trap. Use a cable tie, a plastic fastener which is threaded through one of the cross members. Once in place, close the cable tie into a loop. You can use string but a crab will shred it.

One of the most popular traps for catching blue crabs are the rectangle box traps that has a door on the side which opens up when the trap hits the bottom. You can find variations of this trap with multiple doors, I believe there is a three and four door version available. With some of the newer versions of the traps some don’t have a top which adds the advantage of being able to stack them one on top of the other.

Maryland Blue Crab Pot Trap

  • 13″x13″x24″
  • Vinyl coated to prevent corrosion.
  • Lightweight.
  • Price:

If you’re shopping for a box trap to catch blue crabs, this is probably your best bet. Keep in mind that unlike some other traps, this one won’t break down so transporting it is a bit bulkier. That being said it’s still quite light, and due to it’s vinyl coating it largely prevents any possible corrosion.

That being said, some people have reported difficulties using this over a pot. Some of the smaller crabs might slide through the holes in the cage or even exit through the entrance even while being pulled up.

Pros
  • Inexpensive.
  • Corrosion resistant.
  • Great for blue crabs.

Cons
  • Cannot be broken down.
  • Only one door.

After you select the trap, simply place it in the water. Then throw the trap away from your boat to ensure you don’t scratch the gunnel. Then, toss the float away from your boat. This will help prevent the line from becoming entangled in the prop of your boat.

When the trap hits the bottom, the sides will open. The float will mark the spot where the trap is. Now bait another one and place it in the water a few feet from the first one. Keep repeating until all the traps you intend to use are placed at the depth you want. Rules change as to how many traps you can use, so check the latest rules and regulations. After several minutes begin pulling the traps to the surface. A boat hook comes in handy for this purpose. Simply hook the float, in this example an empty plastic jug, and pull it upwards. When the line is tight, the sides of the trap close and any crab(s) inside will be caught.

Being careful when the trap is out of the water, grab the trap, hold it over your basket and shake the crab out. If you are uncertain about the legal size of a crab, measure it and see our crabbing equipment page to make sure you’re properly prepared.

After adding crabs to the basket, make sure you replace the top on the basket and a wet towel over the lid. Crabs do not like direct sun and will die fairly quickly when exposed. When you are finished, whap the line around the float; turn the trap over so the sides open; place the float and line inside; turn the trap over and repeat the process. Stack the traps on one another for easy storage.

As warmer weather progresses, you will start to find jellyfish in your traps. The less rain there is the more jellyfish you will find. Jellyfish head to the bottom when it rains as they do not thrive in fresh water. If you find some, shake them out of your trap.

Homemade Blue Crab Traps

You may have read online about homemade blue crab traps which seem a good idea on the surface but when you look into it in more detail you with find that they’re just not as good as a professional store bought crab traps and these we built with only one aim and that’s to catch as many crabs as they can.

So to sum up there are a few different types of blue crab traps but the all revolve around the same basic idea and that’s the closed in cage to keep the crabs in while you can freely leave them till you return.

Using A Drop Line

You can use something really simple like a piece of string with bait tied to one end. You will not catch a lot but it will be enjoyable. At the start of the season you will not catch many. What you do catch will be small. By September the crabs will have grown to a respectable size. In an effort to stimulate a larger crab population, toss your females back into the water.

After initially testing the waters, and you find that there are plenty of crabs, you can drop a line to catch one at a time.

  1. Tie a 6-7 Foot Line to a Fishing Stick – Hook a bunker fish to the fishing hook, making sure it has a strong hold.
  2. Drop the Line into the Water – Once you feel a tug, pull the line slowly and check if there’s a crab hooked to your bait. Most crabs will be pinching the bunker bait, so a slow pull can prevent the crab from letting go.

Once you’ve successfully captured a bunch of blue claw crabs, always store them in a cooler to keep them fresh before you cook them. Also, it may be best if you cook them on the same day they were caught.

Blue Crab Bait

What’s the best bait? Check out our crab bait page and see what works for you! Some popular ones are eels, chicken necks, turkey necks, chicken wings, bunker (Atlantic Menhaden, also knows as pogy, mossbunker and fatback), fish heads, bull lip and still more.

Crabbing from a Boat

Be very careful if the wind is blowing. Your boat will drift as you are pulling a trap to the surface. You must know where your other floats are in relation to your boat. If you drift on top of a float it can become entangled around your prop when you start moving again. The result will be a damaged prop, a bent trap and loss of your self-control as you cut the line from around your prop. You might have to get in some cold water to accomplish this.

A WORD OF CAUTION: Do NOT leave your traps or trotline unattended. Unfortunately there are some unsavory characters around who will empty your traps when you are not looking. Although unlawful, that does not stop them!

Best Time to Go Crabbing

When is the best time to catch crabs? In creeks and rivers, crabbing the incoming tide at sunrise seems worthwhile. When the sun is up, move to deeper water. How about the full moon? Females molt during a full moon so males will be around. There is little evidence that a full moon will increase your catch, however.

You’ll also want to go crabbing around periods of slack water as this is when crabs tend to forage for food and are much more likely to get caught in your trap or pot.

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