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Crabbing with traps- where/how

“I want to go crabbing with “traps!”

Last week we talked about crabbing with hand lines. This week,
we’re going to talk about crabbing with traps. What is the advantage of
using traps over lines? Traps can catch you more crabs in a shorter period
of time than using hand lines. There is less “human error” when using traps.
(Often times the crab is lost when trying to dip it with a crab net.) Crab
traps work better than lines where the water is deep or the current is
strong. There are some places that are high off the water such as the Cape
Henelopen Pier in Rehoboth where it is necessary to use traps.

“I don’t have a lot of money to invest in crabbing. We only plan
to do it for one day and that’s it!”

That’s the joy of going crabbing. You do not have to spend a
lot of money. It is less expensive than going fishing. The most
economical traps to use are also one of the best! It is called a “two ring
crab net ” or sometimes called tidewater crab trap. The crabber simply ties
the crab bait in the center of this cloth net, along with a two to four-
ounce sinker, and throws it into the water. Every five to 10 minutes, the
net is quickly pulled up. These traps, which have the advantage of no
assembly and no foul-ups, are also available in wire.

These cloth nets do not last forever, but if you are only
crabbing for a day they are great! The most important thing to remember to
do is this. Tie the chicken neck, chicken back, bunker, fish or other crab
bait securely into the bottom of the net. If you don’t tie the bait in, the
crab will simply pick it up and walk away with it!

The second most important thing to do is pull the trap up
quickly, because it does not have a top. The trap does have sides however,
and the crab has no time to escape unless you pull it up real slow. The next
most important thing to use on any crab trap is some decent line to pull it
up. Most traps come with just enough line to string the trap together, but
no more. Buy poly or nylon “crab trap line.” These lines are sold in all
stores that sell crabbing equipment and only cost a couple bucks. There is
48 feet of rope in each package. This is enough for several traps. Warning:
Do not use the cotton string that you would use to make crab hand lines to
pull up your traps. It is not durable and may unravel. Then you may lose
your trap! (If you have to use cotton string, double it.)

When you are using crab traps, especially the cloth nets, you
may find it necessary to use crab tongs to pick up the crabs. When the cloth
net hits the pier and the sides collapse down, the crab may realize it is
not in the water and try to run. Always keep the trap “up” until you are
ready to pick up the crab. If it is a legal crab, you can tilt the trap over
a cooler and hopefully the crab will walk it’s way in. Sometimes the crab
gets tangled in the cloth netting and you have to carefully extract it. This
is where the crab tongs come in!

“Are the wire tidewater traps better?”

They work the same but last longer. Plus, since they are made out of wire,
the crab cannot get tangled in the netting. They are also a little heavier
so the crabber might not need to tie as much lead weight in them. Hint: If
you are going to keep the traps for another vacation, hose them off with
fresh water before storing them away.

“How about regular “collapsible crab traps” with sides and a

There are dozens of collapsible crab traps on the market and
most are fine. I do prefer a square collapsible crab trap over the pyramid
types, only because the pyramid types are “spring loaded” and do not always
work correctly when you take them out of the package. If you do happen to
buy one and you find that it does not work correctly, the best thing to do
is “re-string” it with good nylon string or monofiliment and add additional
sinker weight to the bottom of the trap.

Square traps are my favorites. Again, there are several types on
the market. Some are made overseas and cost less while others are locally
made and cost a little more. The more expensive ones that are locally made
are usually made out of heavier vinyl coated wire and have two doors that
fall down so the crab can walk in. (Some available may have 4 doors.) The
better traps will also have a place to put the bait so you do not have to
tie it in. This “bait holder” may be fashioned out of wire or a piece of
bungee cord.

If you buy a trap without a “bait hold” you can simply tie the
bait in the center of the trap or buy some metal “shower curtain rings” to
pierce your bait and attach it to the center of the trap. (These work good
when using “bunker” for bait, as bunker is hard to “tie.” Simply run the
shower curtain ring thru the eyes of the bunker fish.

Hint: (Make sure your bait is in the center of the trap and not hanging out
the sides of the trap. You want the trap to close securely when you pull it

“What is the best inexpensive square crab trap?”

The F.J. Neil Co. makes a crab trap called a “Snap Trap.” These very
affordable crab traps are already assembled and also can be stored
completely flat. They sell for around $5 or $6 each and have two-doors. They
are already strung, but you do need to add more rope to pull them up. If you
use them a second season, you may want to re-string them with nylon cord.
(The import crab traps usually are not made with the higher quality of

The American Made “Foxy Mate” traps used to be very popular in our area.
They are still very good, have 4 doors, and well worth the money, but you do
have to put them together. (The locally made crab traps are already put
together.) Foxy Mate has come out with a “top-less” trap that is already
assembled that some crabbers say work just fine. They are more pricey than
the locally crab traps though.

“How many crab traps am I allowed to use?”

In Maryland, you are allowed to use up to 10 collapsible crab traps per
person. They must be no larger than 12 X 12. If more than two people are in
a boat, you cannot have any more than 25. Delaware does not have any size or
number restrictions on collapsible crab traps.

“How often should I check my crab trap?”

Every five or 10 minutes is my rule of thumb. If there is always a crab when
you pull it up, do it more often. If not, do it less often.

“What tide is best for crabbing?” Crabbing is best on the higher tides.
Three hours before high tide and two to three hours after high tide is the
best time to go. Low tide sees smaller crabs.

Crabbing is best spring through early August. In mid- to late-
August, the crabs sometimes pull a disappearing act, coming back again in
September and October. More male crabs are found in creeks or close to
green marshes. More females are found in deep moving waters closer to sandy
bars or channels.

If you are crabbing in a boat, crab in the upper reaches of the
bays such as the green marshes near the Rt. 90 Bridge, the wide area just
behind Convention Hall around 41st Street, north of the Thorofare, and the
bay behind Assateague. Ever since rocks were put around the pilings of the
Rt. 50 Bridge, crabbing has not been as good close to the inlet.

Good crabbing…


· 127TH Street and the bay-- a public pier behind the Recreational
Center. One can crab from the pier or in the saltwater pond.

· 41st Street and the bay-- a small public pier behind the Convention
Center. Vacationers can also clam here.

· Isle of Wight-- public bulkhead and pier. (This area was still
closed as of 6/15/04 but should be open soon.) Cross the Route 90 Bridge at
61st Street and travel west. In the center of the bridge is an island. At
the light, make a left. There is a sign designating the “Isle of Wight.”
(Note: Some crabbers take a right at the light, and park beside the side of
the road, walk across the marsh, and crab.)

· Assateague—cross the U.S. Route 50 Bridge going west. Make a left on
Route 611. Travel this road until you see the bridge going to the island.
To the left, you will see a public pier. This is best on the higher tide.

· Assateague National Park—cross over the bridge going into Assateague
and take a right at the sign for the National Park. Travel down this road a
few miles and follow the signs. There are several crabbing and clamming
areas. There is a small fee to get into the National Park.

· South Point Public Boat Ramp-- Take a left on Rt. 611 as if you are
going to Assateague. Rather than veering left to go to Assateague, follow
the signs and go straight to South Point. There is a public boat ramp that
is excellent for crabbing.

· Ayres Creek—As you travel Route 611 towards Assateague, make a right
on Route 376. A few miles down this road, you will come to a small bridge
crossing Ayres Creek.

· Herring Creek—Go west across the U.S. Route 50 Bridge. A few miles
out of town you will see a small bridge crossing Herring Creek.

· Public Landing—Going South on Rt. 113 just past Snow Hill, take a
left at the sign for Public Landing. (About 27 miles from Ocean City.)
Very nice crabbing pier.

· Derrickson Creek—Traveling north through Ocean City, you will see a
sign for Route 54. (Where Ocean City ends and Fenwick Island, Delaware
begins.) Make a left on Route 54 and travel approximately five miles out of
town. Make a right on road 381 (there is a sign pointing the way to “Camp
Barnes”) and you will come to Derrickson Creek.

· Camp Barnes—Continue to follow the signs for Camp Barnes and there
are crabbing piers there.

· Holt’s Landing—Going North on Rt. 1 towards Bethany Beach, take a
left on Route 26 and go west. You will go through Ocean View and Millville.
Just past Clarksville, you will see a sign for Holt’s Landing. Follow the
signs. It is part of the Delaware Seashore State Park. There is a crabbing
and fishing pier there and it is also a good area to clam

· Cape Henlopen Pier—Part of the Delaware Seashore State Park—One must
use crab traps at this location.

· Another famous crabbing place in Delaware is Love Creek Bridge. From
Rt. 1 in Rehoboth, go west on Rt. 24 (McDonalds intersection) approximately
5 miles. Also, at the end of the same road is the Oak Orchard (pay)
crabbing pier.

Buy Crabbing equipment online.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 March 2011 10:01