Home Drifting Easy - Fishing Tips Catching Crabs with Crab Pots in Ocean City, MD
Catching Crabs with Crab Pots in Ocean City, MD

It looks like it’s heating up to be a good crabbing year in Ocean City, MD. Homeowners who are putting out two crab pots behind their condos in North Ocean City are coming into the tackle shop to say they are catching really nice crabs. So, it’s time to talk about crabbing and what you can and cannot do!

“What are those big square cages in front of your store?”

They are crab pots! Just like the ones commercial watermen use out in the bay. But, vacationers in Maryland are not allowed to set these big crab pots out in the bay or off a pier. They must use collapsible crab traps, hand lines, or a trot line.

“I have water front property!”

If you own or rent waterfront property, you can set 2 crab pots at the property. You can tie the pot to the dock/bulkhead or you can set them, not more than 100 yards, from the shore and mark them with a buoy that has the owner’s name and address written on it.

Crab pots are supposed to have two culling rings (round plastic rings) and four turtle reduction devices (rectangular wire things). Tackle stores sell these items if you don’t have them.

Some anglers take crab pots out into the bay without regard to the law or they do not know the law. When the pots disappear, anglers think that other boaters are stealing them, but it’s usually the DNR police. This gets expensive.
“Which end is up? What’s the best bait to use?”

New crabbers ask this all the time.

OK, the cylinder that you put the bait in goes on the bottom when you lower the crab pot into the water. Crabs will eat about anything, but the most popular bait to buy is frozen bunker. Put one or two bunkers in the cylinder and drop it in the water. Pull it up after a tide has come or gone (about 6 hours). Anglers who fish can save their fish carcasses and use them for bait. Flounder, bluefish or whatever you can cram into the cylinder will work. Chicken is good too, but not as good as bunker. Once the bait gets really stinking in the hot bay water, it’s a good idea to change it.

OK, let me give you a word of advice now. When you check your crab pot (every morning and every evening is a great idea) pull it up and out of the water. If there are several crabs in there you want to get out and there’s some nasty rotting bait you want to get rid of, open the cylinder top and let the old bait drop into the water BEFORE shaking the crabs out. Otherwise, when you shake the crabs from the top part of the cage to the lower part of the cage to get them out of the opening, all that bait comes apart and gets all over you and the crabs!!!! Yuck!

“How long can you keep crabs in the crab pot?”

People ask this all the time. Eventually, the crabs will get back out, or one or two will die and the other crabs will try to eat them and things will get stinky. The best thing to do is take the crabs out at least once a day and keep them in a holding pot for no more than 2 or 3 days. You can also cook them and keep them in the refrigerator.

To clean a crab, take the back off and take out the dead man’s fingers. Hose the guts out and keep them in the refrigerator for a day or two before cooking them. Cook them just like regular steamed crabs. Sprinkle with OLD BAY and steam for around 25 minutes.

“How many crabs can you keep?”

One bushel per person or two bushels per boat if there is more than one person aboard the boat.

“I want to use a trot line in the Coastal Bays. How long is it allowed to be?”

I get this question a lot from crabbers that are from the Chesapeake Bay and know how to use a trot line. I always have to get the Maryland law book out and look it up. Here is the answer:

“It Shall Be Lawful -
1. To crab in the Coastal Bays of Maryland’s Atlantic Ocean and their tributaries using:
a. not more than 600 feet of baited trotline, with floats of the same color size and shape attached to each end; or
B. not more than two 600-foot trotlines if 2 or more persons are in the boat.”
“Do I need a license to crab?”

Since anglers now need a fishing license in Maryland, vacationers and boaters are all asking this question. The answer is NO.

It gets very confusing because the Chesapeake Bay and our Coastal Bays have slightly different laws regarding crabbing and fishing. So, when you open the Maryland Fishing Law Book be sure to read the laws for the Coastal Bays, not the Chesapeake Bay. Some of the differences are: Legal crab size is 5-inches tip-to-tip all season. We are allowed to keep mature female crabs. There’s no time or day restrictions. You can crab any time, any day. No license is required.
You can read the Maryland Law Book online at: http://dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/fishing_guide/guide.pdf.

“How many collapsible crab traps or hand lines can I use from the dock or boat?”

You can use any number of dip nets and any number of hand lines you want. You are allowed 10, or a combination of 10, collapsible crab traps or crab net rings per person from docks, piers, bridges, boats or shoreline. If you are in a boat, not more than 25, or a combination of 25, collapsible crab traps or crab net rings, if two or more persons are in a boat.
In Delaware, there are another whole set of rules which we’ll get into another time. In a nutshell, boaters can drop two crab pots per person in as long as they have a Delaware fishing license. Crabbers using hand lines and traps from the shore, unlike Maryland, have to buy a Delaware fishing license.

Delaware handbooks with all the rules/regulations are available at the DEL tackle stores or you can read the rules online at: http://www.fw.delaware.gov/Fisheries/Documents/2011_Delaware_fishing_guide.pdf.

Good crabbing….

Sue Foster is an outdoor writer and co-owner of Oyster Bay Tackle in Ocean City, MD and Fenwick Tackle in Fenwick, DE.

Last Updated on Monday, 21 November 2011 19:59