Home Drifting Easy - Fishing Tips I want to go Crabbing in Ocean City, MD
I want to go Crabbing in Ocean City, MD

“I want to go crab fishing…”

Well, not everyone wants to go fish fishing. With the high price of crabs, it’s no wonder vacationers want to try their hand at catching some crabs. There’s no guarantee that you’ll catch dinner, but you and the kids can have some fun. Crabbing is relatively inexpensive and there is no license required in Ocean City, MD to crab. You do need a license in Delaware.

I have people call me at our tackle shops all the time asking what to buy and how to go crabbing. So here goes!

There’s two ways to go about recreational crabbing. You can crab with hand lines and use a dip net, or you can use crab traps.

I suggest handlines for a family with kids since it gives them more to do. You may want to try both to increase your odds of getting some dinner while keeping the kids active. Crabbing with lines is very simple. You can buy string, small sinkers and chicken necks to make your own lines OR you can buy pre-made “crab throw lines.” These pre-made lines are made out of a triangle of wire with a sinker molded into it. It is wrapped with 25-feet of string. (Hint: Always make sure the string is actually tied on to the wire! Sometimes the workers that make them forget that small detail!) When I use them, I don’t unravel the whole 25-feet of line. I use about half the line and half hitch the string to the wire. Twenty five feet is a long way to pull in a crab!

Tie the line to a dock or bulkhead. Pierce the chicken neck or turkey part with the sharp end of the wire that is part of the crab throw line. It’s like a big safety pin! Throw the bait out in the water and wait for the crab to start tugging on the line. When that happens, pull it in very slowly. Get the rim of the net below the crab and scoop the crab up. If there is current, place the net down current. If the crab falls off, it will fall in the net. One of the biggest mistakes people do is to accidently hit the crab with the rim of the net. As you can see, this can keep the kids busy, but there is room for mistakes and errors.

If you use a crab trap, the bait is secured in the middle of the trap, and is pulled up every 10 or 15 minutes. The sides pull up and trap the crab inside. Kind of foolproof, but not much to do but wait... and wait.

There are also inexpensive gizmos called “crab rings.” They are simply a cloth or wire net that you tie bait into the bottom. You tie a rope to the end of the three lines that are tied to the net. You simply pull it up quick and the crabs cling to the bottom of the net. The only problem with these is that you need to have some crab tongs. The crabs can scurry out of the net when it hits the dock, and crabs have some pretty quick and painful pinchers! If you don’t have tongs, you can carefully grab them from behind with your bare hands or find some really heavy gloves (which aren’t cheap). Kitchen tongs will work fine too if you have a pair available.

Crabs in the Coastal Bays of Maryland need to be five inches tip-to-tip. Mature females are legal as long as they are not egg bearing. Laws in the Chesapeake Bay are different than the Coastal Bays of Maryland, so if you are reading the DNR law book be sure to look at the correct page!

“Where can we go crabbing from the shore?”

•127th Street and the Bay- a public pier behind the Recreational Center.

•Jamestown Park at 116th Street - The bulkheaded area on the side of the street is a city park. Parking is available on the side of the street.

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

•Isle of Wight Public Pier - 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 “Isle of Wight.” The railing is high so you either need a long extension net or use traps.

•Assateague - Cross the U.S. Route 50 Bridge heading 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 location 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. You will need to pay a 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 short distance down this road, you will come to a small bridge crossing Ayres Creek. There is no public parking so you need to be dropped off.

•Herring Creek - Head west across the U.S. Route 50 Bridge. A few miles out of town you will see a small bridge crossing Herring Creek. There is no public parking here either, so you need to be dropped off.

•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.) This is a very nice crabbing pier.

•Oceanic Pier - This is a pay pier at the southernmost end of Ocean City.

•9th Street Pier - Public pier on the bayside at 9th Street and the bay.

Many people ask how to take their crab catch home. Put ice in the bottom of a cooler and place newspaper on top of the ice. Lay your legal crabs with their shells up in the cooler. Do not try to keep crabs in a bucket of seawater or they will run out of oxygen and die. Cool and damp and out of the direct sun is the best way to keep them while you are crabbing.

If you don’t have a way to steam your crabs, check with some local seafood restaurants. They will steam them for a small fee.

Good luck and have fun….

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