Recreational crabbing is one of the most popular outdoor activities enjoyed by both young and old. The blue crab’s aggressive interest in bait, abundance and tasty flavor make it an ideal interest for crabbers in the state. In addition to the recreational value that crabbing provides, it also contributes sustaining an essential commercial fishery that many New Jerseyans rely on for income.
Recreational Blue Crab Fishing
While crabbing isn’t the only recreational outdoor activity in New Jersey, it’s by far the most popular. While hunting for shellfish like hard and soft clams, surf clams, oysters, bay scallops and mussels are quite popular in the state, nothing can compare to the interest people have in crabbing for blue crabs.
According to a survey, out of the state’s saltwater fisherman, about three-quarters prefer crabbing over the alternatives. That means that crabbing in the state of New Jersey amounts to approximately 30 percent of all marine fishing activity. About 65 to 86 percent of recreational crabbing harvest occurs in specific areas including:
- Maurice River Estuary.
- Little Egg Harbor.
- The upper portion of Barnegat Bay.
There are many things that most people are unaware of when it comes to crabbing. The following are some Q&A to fully understand the love of crabbing and the laws around it.
The Most Common Crabs
In New Jersey, most crabbers heavily invest in fishing for the blue crab. It tastes good, is aggressive enough to take most baits and is abundant. The scientific name for the blue crab is Callinectes sapidus which means ‘beautiful swimmer’ in Latin. The Latin meaning of the is true to the nature of the blue crab. It is scrumptiously tasty with delicate white meat in every piece. Its color is a mix of red, olive-green, and blue, a beauty to behold.
The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife established the specific laws for catching crabs in the state of New Jersey. The rules establish the responsibilities, safety hazards, and other necessary information regarding both recreational and commercial crabbing.
Accordingly, a peeler or shredder carb must measure up to 3 inches. The measurement must be 3.5 inches for the soft crabs, and for hard crabs is 4.5 inches. All sizes of the crab must be from point to point.
The law permits the use of crab traps & pots as well as single hand lines without requiring a license. However, you cannot sell or barter any such crabs caught using the recreational permit – for that you’ll need a commercial license. You can also harvest up to one full bushel of crabs per day.
Crabbers must also make sure to remove female crabs that have a clutch of eggs or spawn attached to them as they’re vital to repopulating the crab population year-after-year.
Best Time To Go Crabbing
License holders can only set their crab pot from April 6 to December 4 in the Delaware Bay. However, in all other waters, they are free to place a pot between March 15 and November 30.
Daily crabbers believe that the hours between 4:30 AM and 8:30 AM are ideal for crabbing in New Jersey. According to them, the crabs are more active in the early hours, helping them spot and catch faster. In Delaware Bay, crabbers can only tend to their trotlines and crab pots between 4:00 AM to 9:00 PM. While for the rest of other waters, crabbers can tend to their lines and pots 24 hours a day.
At least once every 72 hours, crabbers must check their pots and empty it of all it’s contents. While 72 hours is the maximum, we strongly suggest you check every 12-24 hours so the crabs don’t cannibalize themselves.
Best Locations For Crabbing in New Jersey
Many places allow people to fish for crabs. Some well-known locations are:
- Delaware Bay
- Ocean County
- Cumberland County
- Atlantic County
- Monmouth County
- Cape May County
- Man-Made Lagoons
How Crabbers Catch Crabs in New Jersey
Blue crabs are very abundant in the state of New Jersey from the rivers, saltwater bays and tidal creeks to the shallow waters. You should have no trouble finding this classic aquatic creature all along the Jersey coast from Delaware Bay to the Hudson River.
Small boats are ideal for getting to the crabbing areas. However, you can also try any bulkhead, pier covering tidal waters, banks, or bridge for ideal crabbing.
A well-known method of crabbing is using traps from a boat or the bank. Baited lines are also an excellent choice preferred by many crabbers. Chicken necks and menhaden (bunker) are some of the most regularly used baits. However, you can use any fresh or rotten fish as well.
Using either pots and trot lines is an ideal way to catch crabs when on a boat. There is no telling which technique works better and catches more crabs.
The dip net technique is best for catching shedder or soft crabs. Such methods are effective around calm and clear waters. It is also easy to scoop crabs from around bulkheads and bridge pilings.
The bushel basket is the best way to hold your catch. It would help if you placed the basket in a cool, shaded area that doesn’t have the sun beating down on it. When in the basket, the crab can stay alive for up to a day in such an environment. Some useful tips to look out for when crabbing are:
- During the summers, do not leave the crabs in direct sunlight.
- Avoid keeping crabs in a bucket of water or they will drown.
- Using plastic bags and closed containers will kill the crabs.
- You can use a cooler with ice for long-distance transportation of the crabs.