Crabbing isn’t just a great recreational activity, in many regions it’s also a very productive commercial powerhouse. Maryland’s blue crab has been providing both prosperous employment and a delicious treat for hundreds of years.
When you are in Maryland, you will see these crustaceans on menus, food trucks, and even prints on t-shirts and caps. As crabs are one of Maryland’s chief exports, it is a matter of pride for its people and also a beloved activity.
Have you ever tried crabbing in Maryland? There are some things you must know before you head out. So continue reading to find out the state’s regulations regarding crabbing and also some tips for you to have the best crabbing experience!
Crabbing seasons in Maryland start on April 1 and ends on December 15. The time restriction for crabbing from April and October-December in rivers, tributaries, and creeks is one and 1/2 hour after dawn till dusk. From May to September, you can go crabbing one 1/2 hour before dawn till dusk.
As for the Chesapeake Bay, it is one ½ hour before sunrise till 5 pm. It is crucial to remember these time restrictions as setting crabbing gear before or after the restrictions is illegal. However, there is no limitation for the use of registered gears on private properties.
Also, recreational crabbing on Wednesdays is not allowed unless you are using dip nets or handlines or crab pots on private property. There is also an exception if a federal or state holiday is on a Wednesday or Thursday.
If you are wondering what the best time for crabbing is, it would be just about 1-2 hours before or after the tide comes in or out. That is when catching crabs will be easier and successful as the water will be at its highest movement.
Recreational crabbers need to possess a license if they want to use supplies like seines, eel pots, trotlines, and collapsible traps. However, you do not need a license to use gears like handlines and dip nets. In fact, you can catch in a single day about two dozen crabs even if you don’t have a license.
Crab Size Limits
Be sure to bring a measuring gauge along with you! Yes, it sounds strange, but when it comes to the crab size you can catch, Maryland has some precise rules.
You can catch a male hard crab measuring 5 inches (April 1- July 14) and 5 ¼ inches (July 15- December 15), male peeler crab of 3 ¼ inches (April 1- July 14) and 3 ½ inches (July 15- December 15), and Soft crab measuring 3 ½ inches during the whole season.
But most importantly, be sure to read the state laws before you embark on your crabbing adventure. You can read the Maryland Blue Crab Regulations for an overview of the state regulations.
Best Places to Go Crabbing in Maryland
Crabbing isn’t expensive at all! You can find a reasonable catch with just some bait and a dip net. But if you are looking in the wrong places, you will not enjoy the activity as much – luckily, Maryland has plenty of excellent crabbing locations and piers. Here are some of the best crabbing spots in Maryland:
Matapeake Fishing Pier
One of the best places to go crabbing for those staying in and around Queen Anne’s County is the Matapeake Fishing Pier. It is a 650-foot pier located on Route 8. If you like being closer to the waters, you can use the boat ramp that is 25 feet in width. The Matapeake Fishing Pier and the boat ramp remains open 24×7, every day of the year. It is in the Matapeake State Park with picnic spots and restrooms.
Sandy Point State Park, 1100 East College Parkway
The Sandy Point State Park is well known for its gorgeous views and being a crabbing destination. You can enjoy crabbing and fishing, as well as various other activities such as boating and picnics with your loved ones. The park also has a marina store where you can always get boat rentals, food and beverages, and crabbing gears if you need them.
Bill Burton Fishing Pier
Open 24 hours every day of the year, the Bill Burton Fishing Pier is a place that gives you the upper hand when it comes to crabbing in Maryland. Although you will be able to enjoy other activities such as biking, picnicking, and hiking, crabbing is one of the major activities that draw people to this pier.
Some other crabbing destinations worth mentioning are the Point Lookout, Route 5, St. Mary’s County, Solomon’s Island fishing pier, and Kings Landing Park in Calvert County. Maryland is a state where you wouldn’t have to worry about finding a good spot for crabbing.
Now that you know some of the best places for crabbing in Maryland, here are some tips for you to have a successful and fruitful crabbing experience.
- Learn how to handle them! Crabs have claws, and if you do not know how to hold them the right way, they will pinch. The ideal way to hold a crab is by putting your foot on top of the crab, grabbing its last leg on the back, and picking it up. To be extra safe be sure to pick up a pair of crabbing gloves so you don’t have to deal with pinches and the cold and wet conditions.
- If a crab dies after you catch it or before you clean it, don’t eat it. Dead crabs will release a bacteria which can cause severe food poisoning if not consumed quickly.
- If your crab feels very lightweight when you pick it up, it would mean that there isn’t much to eat inside it. So check the weight of your crabs while catching them, and go for the heavy ones.
- Although Maryland is known for blue crabs, you might also find others such as spider crabs and green crabs. They are not edible; therefore, you must release them back into the water if you catch them.