Crabbing for Beginners

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Introduction: Crabbing for Beginners

Crabbing is both a commercial business as well as a family fun activity.  Crabbing involves the catching and eating of these succulent crustaceans. The crab most commonly caught and eaten along the East Coast is known as the blue claw crab. There is nothing better than coming home and having a delicious meal of blue claw crabs with the family.

Step 1: Warning

-Crabs have claws and will pinch you. If this happens do not panic. Pull the crab away from you with your other hand until the claw breaks off the crab. The proper way of holding a crab is shown in later steps.

-Crabs have size limits that change annually. Check online or at your local marina to avoid any legal issues that could arise. Check out http://www.scottsbt.com/fishids/regsrecs/regsNJ.htm for more info.

-There are other crabs local to the East Coast such as green crabs and spider crabs. These crabs are not edible and if caught should be released.

-If the crab has an egg sac it must be released by Law.

Step 2: Caution!

If the crab dies before it is cleaned do not eat it! Once dead, a poison is released throughout the crab's body that ruins the meat.

Step 3: Equipment

-Cooler
-Fold up chair
-Bag of Ice (sold at local convenience stores)
-Crab trap
-Bait
-Junk Knife (for bait)
-Snacks for yourself
-Thick Gloves(makes holding crabs easier)
-Net(if using a hand line)

Step 4: Areas for Crabbing

Crabs are found in saltwater. This also includes brackish water also known as tidal water. These areas include saltwater marshes, bays, inlets and the ocean. Crabs also prefer to be near underwater structures such as pilings (usually from docks), bridges and sunken shipwrecks.

Step 5: How to Hold a Crab

1. Put your foot(preferably with a shoe, no flip flops/sandals) on the crab to keep it from moving.
2. With one hand, grab the flipper/last leg of the crab located at its back.
3. Take your foot off the crab and lift it up.
4. It will not be able to pinch you.

Step 6: Types of Bait

Dead Fish-Any type of fish will do as long as it is a reasonable size, usually between 6 inches to 1 foot. A few types of fish commonly used are bunker, snapper blues and sea robins. The fish can be better utilized by cutting it into 2 by 6 inch pieces. Make sure that there are cuts on the fish so that the smell will easily travel through the water.

Hot Dogs-Hot Dogs are not commonly used due to the fact that they are very soft and crabs can easily tear them apart and eat them. The advantage of hotdogs is that they are much cheaper than normal bait so if you are on a budget, hot dogs might be the way to go.

Chicken-Chicken legs are preferred. Chicken is less expensive then fish and is a solid bait. This means that the crabs can’t easily break it up and take it away.

Meat-Any meat can be used. The three above are the most affordable meats to buy as well as the easiest to use.

Step 7: Types of Traps and How to Use Them

Weighted Hand lines/drop lines- This is a rope with a weighted hook on the end. The weight keeps the bait from floating up. Tie the end of the string that doesn’t have the hook on it to something that is secure so that the crab can’t pull the entire line into the water. The bait is securely put on the hook to prevent crabs from taking the bait. Once the bait is on the hook, it is thrown 8 to 12 feet out into the water, usually from a bank. It can also be dropped from the side of a boat in shallow water, as long as the meat reaches them bottom. Wait 5 to 10 minutes or if you see the line begin to move, then very slowly pull in the line. Once the meat comes into view look to see if there is a crab on the meat. If there isn’t, pull that meat out of the water and throw it back out. If there is a crab, pull the line a little closer but make sure to leave the crab 1 to 2 feet under the water. Slowly take a net and lower it into the water behind the crab. Scoop the crab out of the water but be quick because crabs are fast and Waalaa, you have caught a crab.

Box Crab Traps-This trap is made out of a wire like mesh. It has four open sides, a top, a bottom, and for flaps that open and seal off the sides. Strings are attached to flaps and all join at a ring that is located above the trap. A longer string is attached to the ring and when it is pulled it causes the flaps to seal off the sides of the trap.
When crabbing, a piece of meat is placed inside the trap in the middle and tied down. When the crab goes to eat, the sides of the trap will be closed trapping the crap inside with no chance of escape.

Pyramid Crab Traps-This trap is made out of a wire like mesh. It is made from four triangles and a square. One triangle is attached to each side of the square. Strings are attached to the ends of the triangles. The strings join at a ring that is located above the trap. A longer string is attached to the ring and when it is pulled it causes the flaps to seal off the sides of the trap.
When crabbing, a piece of meat is placed inside the trap in the middle and tied down. When the crab goes to eat, the sides of the trap will be closed trapping the crap inside with no chance of escape.


Ring Crab Traps-This trap is either made from wire mesh or string. It is has a circular shape. When lying on the ground it appears flat but when it is picked up, the bottom drops down trapping the crab inside. The bait is usually put in the center of the trap along with some type of weight.

Commercial Crab Traps-In order to use these traps, you must have a license, unless you are using them from on a privately owned dock. These traps are large, usually 2 to 3 feet wide. They are left in the water for many days and can hold large amounts of bait. They are capable of holding dozens of crabs.

Step 8: Cleaning the Crab

-Grab the crab by the claws and back legs.

-Put one point of the shell against a hard surface and pull down

-This will remove the main shell.

-Rip off mouth the area.

-Flip the crab over and remove the flap on the back of the crab.
        A skinny flap means male
        A large round flap means female

-Clean out guts till only white material remains.

-Prepare as desired

Here is a different way of cleaning them:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzUY7Z4t5Ps

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    42 Comments

    Also you could try using softened spearmint as bait, I hear it attracts them like crazy.

    Blue crab on the EAST coast is also the same crab found on the GULF COAST, aka Callinectes sapidus to scientists 'n marine biologists. Crab pictured is female, identified by the tinge of red & brown on claw tips. As for edible crabs, Stone Crabs (claws only) are good if you can catch any; they're rare find 'n if you're really quick, Ghost Crabs (found on most beaches) are also good & meaty but you'll need to catch these at night w/strong flashlight, durable net, 'n of course quickness

    Thanks for the tips. My kids and I love crabbing and made this "how to" video that may also be helpful to your readers: https://youtu.be/cGOmTr1DVGw. Thanks again!

    1 reply

    Here is my how to video I was talking about above :

    lived on the Chesapeake bay my most of my life. commercial crabbed for many years never seen a blue crab cleaned before it was cooked unless it was a soft shell crab.new to me

    2 replies

    I grew up around the Chesapeake bay and around commercial fisherman and crabbers. I never saw anyone clean a crab even a soft shell, but when I went north to do some iron work. Everyone up there would clean their crabs before they made crab cakes. I was like what in the world. Didn't make sense to me, but I guess it's in how you are taught.

    I have to agree, in 50 some years of crabbing Ive never cleaned or seen a live crab cleaned unless it was a softie

    thanks for the info, very helpful! I just documented a crabbing expedition with my son from this past weekend... I also tried to include some regulations and tips within the video: https://youtu.be/JSMOK43F6gw We did most of things mentioned here but we just rinse the crabs in ice water before steaming them. thanks again.

    1 reply

    sorry, I don't think my crabbing instructional video link from the previous post saved properly.

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    Where can you sell them in small quantity after catching them?

    Quien me Puede. Desire d onde pescar jainas

    I'm in newport news where can I fish for crabs

    Cook before you clean. I've never seen anyone do this regularly. I tried it once and that was enough. It's a thousand times easier to get the shell open once they've been boiled.

    user

    "There are other crabs local to the East Coast such as green crabs and spider crabs. These crabs are not edible and if caught should be released.... Once dead, a poison is released throughout the crab's body that ruins the meat."

    This is a lot of incorrect and terrible advice.
    1. Both green crabs and spider crabs are EDIBLE.
    2. The green crab is an invasive species that should be killed or eaten, NOT released.
    3. Crabs do not release a poison that ruins the meat. Dead shellfish such as crabs simply decay and fall victim to bacteria much faster than terredstrial meat.

    I've made a couple crab traps before and in Texas it says you need to make them with at least one biodegradable side (twine tied closed) so if you forget about a trap the crabs can eventually get out.

    Green crabs are invasive and are smothering biodiversity in the north east. Don't release them!

    Great Instructable! I also found a great site with lots of tips to help catch more blue crabs. Check it out, CrabTips.com.

    Crabs do not have poison, when they die the bacteria that is inside of them from what they eat starts to go through the body and ruin the meat.

    Can these tips be used when you are fishing for crawdads? By the way, crawdads are crayfish, crawfish, etc. I just live where they are mostly called crawdads.