How to Go Crabbing: Easy Ways to Catch Blue Crabs

Blue crabs are very easy to catch throughout much of the coastal United States. These crabs are omnivores, eating just about any organic material that they stumble across. However, there are certain baits that request their attention more than others, because crabs have great senses of smell, and prefer to eat meat.

Knowing this, it is not difficult to catch blue crabs. For recreational crabbers, all that is needed for success are crab lines, bait, and a net (as well as a bucket or cooler to put the quarry in).

Where to Go

Blue crabs inhabit most of the inshore waters of the Atlantic and Gulf States. Crabbing from docks near the ocean or near any other salt or brackish water area is a good idea. Old docks and bridges generally attract crabs, as the crustaceans tend to congregate in areas of structure.

Boat ramps and public marinas that lie in saltwater areas represent ideal crabbing spots. Water that is at least a few feet in depth is necessary for a truly successful crabbing trip.

Crab Lines

Many outdoor provision stores sell crab lines, but they are fairly easy to manufacture at home from scratch. Generally, they are about $2.00 apiece at stores, although making crab lines can be an entertaining project in itself. Crab lines consist of some string, and a wire clip with a weight.

The sharp end of the wire is to be pressed through the bait, and then bent into the crease of the other end of the wire (forming a clip, similar to a safety pin). The weight will drag the bait to the bottom, where scavenging crustaceans lurk.

Best Baits for Crabs

Blue crabs are not the pickiest of animals when it comes to their diets. Any bait that is oily enough, or gives off a strong enough scent to capture their attention is a good bait for crabs. Chicken necks, or any other parts of chicken that have bones, such as breasts, will serve well as bait for crabs.

Bones are necessary because a piece of boneless chicken will be shredded by crabs and pesky pinfish in no time, at which point it will simply fall off of the clip of the crab line. Fish heads (such as the heads of freshly filleted bluefish, mackerel, or other fish of approximately two lb.) also work well, and, as with the chicken, they are best when fresh.

It is also a good idea to replace bait that has been in the water for some time, or has been chewed down significantly, as the scent of these baits is weaker.

What to Do When Crabbing

Crab lines should be baited, and then the baited end should be dropped into the water. The other end should be held by a crabber, or tied to something. Every once in a while, the line should be slowly (very slowly) pulled up from the bottom, and tangibly inspected to see if a crab is feeding on the bait.

The line will naturally feel heavier when a crab, or multiple crabs, are feeding on the bait. There will also be a noticeable slight twitching on the line as the crab is moving its arms, to stuff its mouth with the bait. In clear water, and at night with the assistance of flashlights, a crab on the line should be visible before it reaches the top of the water column.

Netting a Crab

When there is a crab on, one person should have a net ready, as the other continues to raise the crab line, with crab, from the bottom. After the netter can see the bait and crab, it is his or her duty to reach down with the net, and scoop up from below, catching the bait and crab.

If the crab is of size, it may be kept. Every once in a while, the crab will drop off before the netter is able to scoop the crab and bait, or the netter may miss. When this happens, simply drop the baited line back in the same spot, and the crab will more than likely be back shortly.

Crabbing is an easy activity for any group of people, and often it is very rewarding. There are many ways to cook fresh crabs, such as boiling them, making crab cakes, or making any of the other recipes that include the meat from these tasty crustaceans.

It is important to know limits on the size of crabs, and, if applicable, licensing issues and seasonal restrictions on crabbing. These vary from state to state, but usually blue crabs between 5 and 6.5 inches (from the points of their carapaces) are legal, and may be kept.

Donald S. Cochran

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