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The Ultimate Guide To Learning How To Catch Crab

how to catch crab

The Ultimate Guide To Learning How To Crab

I can’t remember the first time I went crabbing.  But something about it forged a love in my soul for catching crab.  There’s something about baiting and setting the crab trap and watching it disappear into the depths of the bay. Then the waiting. Oh, the waiting.  Then after waiting for what feels like forever, you pull up the crab trap with massive anticipation.

With each pull of the rope, you wait for the crab trap to make its appearance from the seafloor.  Then it does! And as it becomes clearer and clearer, you see round shapes beginning to form inside the trap.  A few more pulls on the rope, and now you see them…you’ve got a trap full of crab!!!

You hoist the trap onto the deck of the boat or onto the shore and you start going through them to see if there are any keepers in the bunch.  You carefully measure and differentiate males from females, toss the keepers into a bucket and throw the others back into the water.

After checking the bait, you throw the trap back into the water, and the wait starts again.  This is how to crab. And it’s awesome!


dungeness crab

I love crabbing.  I always have. And now that i have two kids of my own, I’m teaching them how to crab. And they love it too.  There’s just something about it that keeps us coming back.

You’re probably interested in learning how to crab as well, which is great! And that’s probably why you’re reading this article.  And that’s exactly what the purpose of this article is…to teach you how to crab. If you want to learn how to crab and know everything there is about crabbing, then keep on reading!

By the end of this article, you’ll know how to go crabbing, what kind of crab traps and pots to use, what kind of bait to use, how to bait the trap and much, much more!  By the end of reading this post…you’ll be a pro at crabbing!

Brief Description of Different types Of Crab

There are about 850 different species of crab, but when it comes down to it, there’s really only a handful of those that we fishermen try to catch. Some of the more popular types of crab we try to catch are King Crab, Red Rock Crab, Blue Crab, Soft Shell Crab, Snow Crab and my all time personal favorite…Dungeness Crab.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll talk mostly about Dungeness crab, red rock crab and blue crab, because those are what I’m most familiar with, and chances are, it’s one of the types of crab that you’ll be crabbing for wherever you’re located.

Here in the Pacific Northwest where I’m located, dungeness crab and red rock crab are typically what we catch.  As a matter of fact, I can’t think of another species of crab that’s common around here that we would target. So let’s start by talking a little bit about the dungeness.

Dungeness Crab

how to catch dungeness crab

Credit: ODFW

As you can probably already tell, I have somewhat of a love affair with the dungeness.  Not only is it a popular crab to catch because it’s so prolific, but also because it’s so delicious. lists dungeness crab as the number one most delicious crab, and describes it’s delicious meat as “succulent, sweet, tender, and flaky.”

Another reason the dungeness is so great is because more of that delicious meat is available per crab.  One decent sized dungeness crab can feed two people. That’s because a single dungeness crab can weigh nearly two pounds, and about 25 percent of that crab’s weight is pure meat!

Not only do the claws of the dungeness provide a lot of this succulent meat, but so does most of the rest of the crab.  The legs of the dungeness are an excellent source of extracting meat from, as is the large body of the crab.

Red Rock Crab

crabbing instructions for catching red rock crab
Credit: ODFW

The Pacific red rock crab, as you can guess by its name, typically lives in and around rocky places. The meat of the red rock crab in my opinion is just as tasty as the dungeness.  The problem is, and the reason they’re not as popular as dungeness, is they are much smaller of a crab.

Because of their small size, it’s much more difficult to harvest meat from the crab.  As a matter of fact, in many cases, the only part of the red rock crab you’ll be able to extract meat from are its claws.  I’ve caught a few that have provided meat from one or two of the legs, but even the body of the red rock crab is very small.

Red rock crabs are meaner than dungeness and will actively try to pinch you. And if you’ve never been pinched, you want to try and keep it that way!  Red rock claws are massive and powerful. They’re natural predators to other hard shelled crustaceans such as clams and oysters.  And they use their claws to crack open those meals.

Red rock crabs are plentiful, and some days, they’re the only type of crab you might catch.  Other days you’ll catch a combination of red rock and dungeness, since they live in the same habitat.

Blue Crab

How to catch blue crab


Blue crab meat is considered by many to be the sweetest and best tasting of all the different types of crab. Some even argue it’s as delicious and succulent as dungeness crab meat.  However, the blue crabs are significantly smaller in size than dungeness. As a result, not as much of the delicious meat can be extracted per crab.

Blue crabs can be found pretty much everywhere along the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States where you can find coastal marsh land.  And the nice thing about blue crab is that they can easily be caught from shore or from the dock.

How To Catch Crab…Let’s Go Crabbing

When it comes to crabbing, there are a number of ways to catch them.  The most popular method of crabbing is to use a crab pot or a crab trap.  Other methods of catching crabs is by using a dip net or even grabbing them by hand, which no thanks, I don’t have any desire to do that!

Different Types Of Crab Traps

Believe it or not, there are more than one kind of crab trap.  And each kind of crab trap comes with its own set of pros and cons, and it really depends on your personal preference which one you’ll want to use to catch crab.  The different types of crab traps typically fall into one of these categories: Rings, pots or traps and snares.

Crab Rings

Crab rings are what I first learned to catch crab with. Rings are the most basic and usually the least expensive type of crab trap, and are an excellent way for people to experience crabbing and not spend a lot of money to get into the game. Often times, in my experience I’ve noticed that when you rent crab gear, you’ll be given crab rings.  

A crab ring is just what it sounds like.  They’re designed out of two rings…a larger outer ring and a smaller inner ring. The two rings are connected to each other by a netting. When the crab ring is on the ocean floor, it collapses and lies flat.  The bait is in the center of the smaller bottom ring.

Because crab rings lie flat on the ocean floor, it makes it incredibly easy for crabs to enter the trap, since they simply just have to walk in. But keep in mind that it’s just as easy for the crabs to walk out! So when using a crab ring, you’ll want to check it frequently. I typically don’t wait any longer than 15 minutes before checking a crab ring.  

I’ve sent down a Go-Pro with my crab pots, and have found that 15 minutes is the magic number.  Any longer than that, and I’ve observed that some of the crabs lose interest and start to walk away.

The way crabs become trapped in the ring is when you start to pull on the rope, which is attached to the larger outer ring.  When you pull on the rope, it lifts the larger ring up over the smaller ring, which in turn lifts the netting that’s attached to the smaller ring creating a ‘wall’ of netting.  The crabs that were feeding on the bait are then “trapped” until you bring them up onto shore or onto the boat.

The key to trapping crabs in a crab ring is to pull the rope very quickly, which in turn lifts the outer ring quickly.  But just because the outer ring is lifted doesn’t mean the crabs are trapped.

Crabs can still swim out of the crab ring, so you must continue to pull fast on the rope.  As you pull the ring through the water, the pressure of the water will prevent the crabs from swimming out of the ring.  

Crab rings are an easy and inexpensive way to catch crab.  They stack flat and don’t take up a lot of room in your boat or your vehicle, and they do a great job at catching crab. Just keep in mind the few technical aspects that I mentioned to help trap the crabs, and you’ll have a table full of crab to eat on!

Cage Traps​

Cage traps are what I use almost exclusively now for crabbing. There are just so many reasons it is a superior crab trap compared to rings.

Cage crab traps are available in different size and shapes.  And just like the name implies, cage traps are fully enclosed just like a cage.  Except there are one-way doors located on each side of the crab trap.

Like rings, the bait is placed in the center of the trap.  The crabs will navigate around the cage, searching for a way to the bait.  That’s when they find the one way door. With cage crab traps, when the crab enters the trap, they are forever trapped inside, except for the rare Houdini escape artist.  But the door the crab enters through only swings in one direction, trapping it inside.

Since crab become literally trapped inside, it’s not as important to check these kinds of traps as frequently as you would a crab ring.  As a matter of fact, often times we’ll set a few of these crab traps out in the morning before we head out fishing. Then when we’re all done fishing, we’ll swing by for the crab traps, knowing that most of the crab that walked into it are still there.

When using a cage type trap for crabbing, you might want to consider using this tip from

“One definite plus, although it is not necessary, is a bungee operated hatch on the top of the trap to allow easy access inside. Those crab doors trap your hand almost as well as the crabs, and trying to pull an angry crab back out that door is even worse. These easy-open hatches will make checking and collecting crabs a breeze.”

Crab Snares

There are two types of crab snares that I’m familiar with that I’ll share here.  There may be more out there, but these are the two that I can speak to. But first, what is a crab snare?  A crabbing snare is essentially a trap that the crab gets tangled up in and keeps it from escaping. Crab snares are usually used from the shore or dock and are attached to a sturdy fishing pole.

Loop Snare

 The loop snare is made up of a small bait box and 4 to 6 loops, or snares, that are attached to the bait box. The loops are made out of very strong monofilament line and are tied in such a way that they function as a slip knot and close tightly when the snare is reeled or pulled in.

The snare is cast out and sinks to the ocean floor.  As the crabs approach the bait box, they end up standing on the loops that are attached to the snare.  Then, when you quickly pull on the line with the fishing rod, the loops “slip” like a noose and trap the crabs legs in the loops.

The advantages of using a loop snare are that they’re very inexpensive and anyone can use it.  The disadvantage is you typically only catch one crab at a time, and you must have a fishing rod and fishing line that’s sturdy enough to handle the snare and crab.  This surf fishing rod and reel set up should be more than sufficient for a crab snare.

Crab Hawk Crab Trap

The Crab Hawk crab trap is technically a trap, and not a snare.  But I list it under crab snares because like the loop snare, you use a fishing rod to make it work and the crab essentially becomes “snared” in the enclosed netting.  

So what is a Crab Hawk and how does a Crab Hawk Work?  The Crab Hawk is an awesome device that is made out of two wire panels that are covered with netting.  The bait is placed in the middle of the snare.

Much like a loop snare, the Crab Hawk is attached to a fishing line and is cast out with the use of a fishing rod.  Once the Crab Hawk hits the ocean floor, the two panels lie flat on the bottom and all that’s exposed is the bait. When a crab comes along and begins to nibble on the bait, you can see it and feel it with your fishing rod.  

When the time’s right, you “set it” by yanking back on your fishing rod.  This causes the Crab Hawk panels to come together, trapping whatever happens to be on it at that time.  

Why I Like The Crab Hawk Crab Trap

The advantages of the Crab Hawk over the loop snare are many.  First, it’s easier to catch more than one crab with the Crab Hawk.  There are many times when I’ve caught 2 or even 3 dungeness with the Crab Hawk.  Second, it causes the crabs legs to get tangled up or ensnared much more than the loops on the other type of snare.  

Much like the loop snare, the Crab Hawk requires a fishing pole that’s sturdy enough to withstand the weight of the trap and several crab, as well as stand up to the rigors of saltwater.  These saltwater rods and reels work perfect with the Crab Hawk.

Read More: The Best Crab Traps For Dungeness Crab

Crab Bait

best crab bait

Crab are scavengers, meaning they roam the bottom of the ocean floor in search of anything that might be edible.  So technically speaking, there’s an endless number of things you could use as crab bait. But over the years, crabbers have narrowed it down to a few things that work as the best bait for crab traps.

In this section we’ll not only talk about what you should use as crab bait, but you’ll also learn how to bait your crab trap the right way, to better your odds of limiting out and even save your bait so you don’t run out.

Best Bait For Crab Traps

There’s a debate among crab fisherman as to what the best bait for crabbing is.  But I’m going to just tell you that you can use any of the crab bait that I mention here and you WILL catch crab.  Spend some time trying each one, and come up with your own opinion…then defend it against the next crabber you run into.  

The most popular types of crab bait that I’ve used is fish carcasses (both fresh and rotten), raw chicken and mink carcasses.

Dead Fish As Crab Bait

When I first learned how to crab for dungeness and red rock, we would always use fish carcasses as bait.  And it worked really well! I actually have some really fond memories as a kid of approaching the fish cleaning stations in Newport, OR and looking through the trash bins.  On a good day, we’d find salmon or rock fish carcasses that had been filleted. Those were perfect because you had the head, the skeleton with a bunch of meat on it and best of all, the guts of the fish.  Yes, using fish as crab bait can be very smelly, but that’s part of the fun!

Fish works excellent as crab bait. But there’s also a few downsides to it.  The first is that other creatures that call the ocean home also really like dead fish.  This includes seals.

The problem with seals liking it so much too is that a seal will destroy your crabbing equipment just to get at the fish.  If a seal sniffs out your dead fish, you can kiss your crab trap goodbye. And if you’re using a crab ring, they’ll just simply take it right out of the ring.  

That’s why I prefer to use another kind of bait that works almost, if not just as well…chicken.

Raw Chicken As Crab Bait

The next time you head out crabbing, grab some cheap chicken quarters, or a pack of legs or thighs that are on sale.  These chunks of chicken fit nicely in a bait box and don’t smell. And most importantly, crab love it!

The other benefit of using chicken as crab bait is the seals will leave it alone.  That’s right! Seals won’t touch it. So you can crab comfortably in the presence of seals and not worry at all about your crabbing gear being destroyed or your bait being stolen.  

That’s why I believe raw chicken to be the BEST crab bait for dungeness, red rock and blue crab…hands down.

Mink Carcass As Crab Bait

You heard me right! I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but here in Oregon, using frozen mink carcasses as crab bait is quite common.  As a matter of fact, if you’re in the Newport, OR area to do some crabbing, you can stop by Harry’s Bait And Tackle on the historic bay front and buy it right there.

There are some benefits to using mink as crab bait, and one of the biggest ones is that it’s very stinky and oily. And that means crabs love it!  The oily residue that comes off of the mink travels really well through the water attracting monster crabs from all over the place.

But beware! Make sure you have a pair of gloves to handle the mink bait, because if you don’t you’ll have really smelly hands.

If you do happen to pick some up from Harry’s Bait and Tackle, I know the last time I bought some they came frozen and wrapped in newspaper.  And that’s actually ideal, because you can simply throw the entire thing, newspaper and all, right into the bait box and not have to touch it.

How To Bait A Crab Trap

Bait Box

When it comes time to baiting your crab trap, you’re definitely going to want to use a bait box.  The only exception would be if you’re using a Crab Hawk. I’ll explain how to bait a Crab Hawk below.

The good thing about bait boxes is that they keep the bait right where you want it…smack in the middle of the crab trap.  Crab bait boxes are also designed to make the bait last longer. Crab are able to access the bait, but only a little bit at a time, which is just enough to keep the crab clawing at it and interested.

Crab bait boxes are either made out of wire mesh or plastic mesh material which allows the scent to freely pass through and for the crab to dial in exactly where the scent is coming from.  

Most bait boxes have a door on one end that allows you to simply throw in the bait.  Make sure you use plenty of bait. Don’t be stingy. The bait box will protect it and make it last for a long time.

If the bait box has a door, then simply close it up and affix the bait box to the center bottom of the crab trap.  Whatever you do though, DO NOT attach it to the inside top of the crab trap. This will only encourage the crab climb up onto the top of the trap to get to the bait, and not inside the trap, which is where we want them.

Some of the soft mesh style bait boxes work in a similar way, except they’ll usually have either an opening on one end you can just close with a piece of wire or small bungee, or a flap that you can close over and secure in a similar way.

How To Bait A Crab Hawk

Crab Hawks are a little different in the sense that they don’t have a bait box.  Instead, the Crab Hawk has a metal stake in the middle that opens and closes like a safety pin.

Just open the “bait pin” and secure your bait onto that pin or stake.  It’s sharpened on one end so it should be fairly easy. Just make sure it’s on there well, and will not fall off with several crabs grabbing and pulling at it.

TIP: One tip for baiting a Crab Hawk is, with chicken, try to pierce the flesh where it’s the thickest and try to go through as many ligaments as possible.  This helps “tie” the bait onto the trap. Chicken legs work particularly well for this.

If you’re using fish for crab bait, then try to fasten it onto the trap by going through the head or even the gills.

How To Set A Crab Trap

Bait The Trap

Now the fun begins!  Time to set the crab trap.  This part easy. All you have to do is simply fill the bait box with your bait of choice, and secure it to the bottom middle of the crab trap.  You can secure it to the bottom of the trap with wire, bungees or my favorite…zip ties.

Prep The Doors

If using a cage style trap, make sure the doors freely swing into the trap!  If your using a new trap, often times the doors will come secured shut with small rubberbands. Don’t forget to take those off!  We once had a about 8 traps out one time, and there were 2 that just weren’t catching anything, at all. You guessed it. They were new traps, and we never took the rubber bands off.

Organize The Rope

Now make sure the rope that’s tied to the crab trap is secured to the trap. Make sure there are no tangles or knots in the rope.  If you’re using buoys, make sure they are properly secured to the rope and well marked.

If using a crab snare, make sure it’s secured well to the fishing line. And make sure the fishing line does not have any abrasions in it or nicks.  Losing your crab trap to a faulty or weak line is incredibly frustrating.

Drop The Crab Pot

With your rope nicely in order and wound up, you can drop your trap into the water.  While it sinks to the bottom, make sure you stay out of the way of the rope.

Once the rope goes slack, you know you hit the bottom.  Now you can take the rope and pull on it a couple of times, lifting the trap up off the bottom and letting it sink again.  This ensures that the crab trap is sitting on the bottom how you want it…upside right. If a trap or ring sits on the bottom up side down or on its side, it simply won’t work and you won’t catch a thing.

If in a boat, throw the buoy into the water, being sure to keep the rope out of the prop. If on the shore or on a pier, tie the rope to a railing. And now we wait!

How Long To Wait Before Pulling Up A Crab Pot

man holding dungeness crab

This is the million dollar question…how long do you have to wait before pulling up a crab trap?  Well, the answer is pretty simple. Here are a few good rules of thumb you can follow:


If you’re using a crab ring, the crab are free to come and go as they wish.  So you want to make sure you pull it up frequently enough to catch those crabs that might lose interest and scurry away.  I like to check crab rings every 10 minutes, but no more than 15 minutes.

Cage Traps

If you’re using a cage style crab trap, then time doesn’t play as much of a factor.  Sometimes we’ll let it sit all morning while we head out fishing. But if we’re there only to crab, then we’ll set up a line of crab traps and check them every 15 minutes or so.  I like to give the crabs 15 minutes to find their way into the trap since they need to find the small one way door. That’s why I give them an extra 5 minutes or so before checking the trap.


Crab snares, like the loop snare and the Crab Hawk work in a little different way.  With snares, it’s a little more like fishing. Once you cast the snare out into the water and it settles onto the ocean floor, you’ll want to tighten up your slack fishing line.  Then you can place the fishing rod in a holder of prop it up against a railing, etc.

Once the crab finds the bait and begins to pull at it, you’ll see your fishing rod start to move.  It’ll look a lot like you’re getting small fish bites or nibbles. When you know a crab is at the snare, take your fishing rod, being very careful not to move the line and scare the crab, carefully and slowly reel in the slack and “set the hook!”  But don’t stop reeling! As long as you keep the line tight, the crab will stay trapped inside the snare.

Crab Pot Wait Times:

Crab Rings: Minimum of 10 minutes but no longer than 15 minutes.

Crab Traps: Minimum of 15 minutes

Crab Snares: Whenever you feel or see a crab eating the bait


Crab identification: How To Tell What Type Of Crab You Caught

So now you’ve caught some crab, and you’ve got dinner on the mind.  But first, do you know what kind of crab you caught? Or do you know if you have a male crab or a female crab?  These are important things to know, because Fish and Wildlife regulations will be different everywhere you go, and often times you’ll need to know what you’ve caught.

So here’s how to tell the difference between different kinds of crab.

Dungeness Crab identification

  • White tipped claws
  • Ten carapace spines (widest at 10th)
  • Color reddish-brown to purple

Here’s a little more of an in depth description of dungeness crab that the State of California has on their wildlife page:

Distinguishing Characteristics: White-tipped pincers on the claws (chelipeds). The top edges of the claws and upper pincers are prominently saw toothed, there being more than a dozen teeth along each edge. The last three joints of the last pair of walking legs have a comb-like fringe of hair on the lower edge, and the joint previous to these has hair on both top and bottom edges, but with a much greater amount on the top edge. In both male and female, the tip of the last segment of the tail flap is rounded as compared to the pointed last segment of the male and female of all the other crabs herein described.Color: Light reddish brown on the back, with a purplish wash anteriorly in some specimens. Underside whitish to light orange, the inner and upper sides of the anterior legs with crimson or purple.Size: Dungeness can grow to a width of 9 inches across the back and according to is one of the largest edible crabs along the Pacific Coast of America.

Red Rock Crab identification 

  • Black tipped claws
  • Wide “fan” shaped carapace
  • Color typically a deep brick red

The red rock crab can grow to more than 10 inches across, but 4 to 6 inches is more common. Male red rock crab can grow up to 7 inches across while females are typically a little smaller at 5 inches across the back of the shell. Their large claws are edged in black, contrasting with the brick red colored shell.

Blue Crab identification

The blue crab is named like it is because of its sapphire-tinted claws. Its large back shell is actually a mottled brownish color. While male blue crab will have a blue tint to the tips of their claws, mature females have red highlights on the tips of their pincers

Blue crab are only located along the East coast of the United States, from as far north as Nova Scotia down into the Gulf of Mexico.

Male vs Female Crab identification

One of the most important things to know when learning how to crab is knowing how to tell the difference between male and female crabs. There are many areas of the country that only allow you to keep male crabs. So it’s good to know the difference.  It’s really not that difficult to tell the difference between the two.

The easiest way to differentiate between male and female crabs is to take a look at the bottom side of the crab.  Just be careful to not get pinched!

male vs female crab


All crabs have a flap on their bottom side. The flap on male crabs is long and narrow.  While the flap on female crabs is much wider, and sometimes almost round in shape.

Once you get a little practice at doing this, it’ll be completely obvious whether they’re male for female.  You’ll become so good at it you’ll be able to spot the difference a mile away.

How To Measure A Dungeness Crab

Sometimes it’s just as important to know how big a crab is as knowing if it’s a male or female.  For example, at the time of this post, in Oregon it’s legal to keep any size and any sex red rock crab.  But for dungeness, you can only keep male crabs. And of those males, they must be 5 ¾ inches or wider across the back of the shell, not including the points.

So where are you supposed to measure the crab?

how to measure dungeness crab


First of all, you’ll hear many different methods of how you can measure a dungeness crab, some including a dollar bill. But don’t rely on measurements that are just estimates.  To be sure, the only way to really measure a crab is by using a crab gauge. When measuring, make sure you measure in a straight line across the back immediately in front of, but NOT including the last points.

How To Safely Handle A Crab

If you’re going to be spending any time crabbing at all, then you’re going to want to learn very early on how to handle a crab.  The last thing you want is to get one of your fingers in between a crabs pincers. So approach crab handling with caution, and respect those pincers!

The easiest way to handle a crab, in my opinion, is to grab it from the top directly behind the two front claws.  If you keep your fingers from reaching around the bottom of the crab, you should be fine. Most crabs are unable to reach the joint of where their large front legs meet their body.  So that’s the sweet spot. It’ll take a little bit of practice, but if you’re careful, you’ll soon be handling crabs like a pro.

Another method of handling crabs is to put them to “sleep”.  I know for certain that this method works well with dungeness crab, but have not tested it out on other crab species.

To put the crab to sleep, simply turn the crab over to expose its underside.  Now carefully rub your finger back and forth on its belly, right over the flap.  Do this for a few times and the crabs legs will eventually fold in and the crab will go to sleep.  

Now that the crab is asleep, it’s the perfect time to measure it!  But be quick, because it doesn’t last long. The crab will eventually wake up and start going after you!

How To Catch Crab FAQ’s

What’s The Best Time Of Year To Go Crabbing?

Firstly, you need to check your local Fish and Wildlife regulations for the state or Province you’re in.  Often times, crabbing is available all year, while some locations only allow crabbing during certain months.  So check those first.

With that said, here in Oregon, at the time of this writing, recreational crabbing is open year round in the bays and estuaries.  The open ocean is more regulated and only open during certain times.

Regarding dungeness crabbing in the bays, which is open most, if not all year, crabs can be caught any time.  Of course, some months are better than others, but technically speakings, you could set your crab pots and catch crab any time of the years.  

But there is a saying that many of the dungeness crabbers go by, and that is:  Crabbing is best in months that contain the letter “R”.  For example, JanuaRy, FebRuary, MaRch, etc.  But take this with a grain of salt, because I’ve had some of my best crabbing trips in the months of June and July.  

When’s The Best Time To Go Crabbing?

This is another question that you’ll probably get a different answer from each crabber that you ask. But what you really want to do is pay attention to the tides.  I think most experienced crabbers will tell you that it’s useless trying to crab while the tide is moving.

So plan your crabbing trip around the slack tides.  If using a boat, you might want to plan on being out on the water and setting your crab pots 30 minutes or so before slack tide.  That gives you those 30 minutes, plus all of slack tide, plus another 30 minutes or so on the other side of slack tide to crab.

So, is high tide or low tide better for crabbing?  It’s really up to you. Try crabbing during both and see which you like better.  I like crabbing low tide myself, but will alway crab high tide as well if I have the opportunity.

How To Catch Dungeness Crab From The Shore

Your best bet for catching dungeness crab from the shore is to use a Crab Hawk, or a loop snare.  Combined with a sturdy fishing pole, you should be able to cast your snare out quite a ways, out to where the crab are waiting.

Another option is to use a cage trap or crab ring from a dock or a fishing pier. These will often times produce excellent crab as well.

How To Cook Crab

I always throw in my crab cooker with me when I go crabbing.  Part of the fun is to cook up your catch at the end of the day and sit around and talk while they cook.

If you’re lucky, you might find a marina or other local store near the water that will cook them up for you.  If that’s the case, take advantage of that. It’s also a great time to talk with the locals and maybe make a few friends.

But if you want to cook up your own crab, then here’s how you can easily do it.  There’s a million recipes on how to cook crab, but this is a no nonsense simple way to cook them, and they come out tasting excellent!

I prefer to clean my crab first.  I remove the top shell, split the crab in half and rinse out the guts, gills, etc. But you can cook them whole and clean them after too if you prefer.

Now, take your large cooker pot and fill it only halfway with sea water.  The sea water has the perfect amount of salt in it and will flavor your crab to perfection.  

Bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, toss in your crab and fill the pot.  Cover it with a lid and start your timer for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, dump the cooked crab into the sink and rinse them off with cold water.  This stops the cooking process AND cools them down enough so you can handle them.

If you still have more crab to cook, just simply bring the same water to a boil and start the process over again.

How To Eat A Crab

Eating crab isn’t necessarily a dainty way to eat.  As a matter of fact, it can get down right dirty sometimes.  But that’s part of the fun, right?

The shells of the crab are designed to protect it.  And these shells continue to do a good job of protecting it even on your dinner table.  So here are a few tips you might want to try when it comes to eating whole crab that you’ve caught yourself.

  • Start by clearing a large area and lay down several layers of newspaper.  
  • Set a roll of paper towels in front of you. You WILL get messy, and you’ll be glad you placed them there in advance.
  • Have a bowl nearby to put the empty shells in.  Leave your plate for the crab and the crab meat.
  • Remove all the leg. Grab them near the base and simply pry them off.  There’ll be lot of crunching but thats ok.
  • Remove the top shell if it still happens to be on and clean out the insides (that’s why I like to remove and clean the crab before cooking it…already done!)
  • Split the body into two parts if it’s still whole. You can easily extract the body meat with just your fingers.  
  • For the legs and claws, you might want to use a nut cracker, or a small hammer to crack the shell.  
  • One thing I like to do is to remove and use the sharp tip of one of the crab legs as a tool to extract meat in hard to reach places, such as the joints.  


Now that’s all there is to it!  Crabbing is simple yet incredibly fun!  It’s something that the whole family can do together, and is relatively inexpensive to do.

So get your crab gear and get out there! There’s a whole lot of crab just waiting out there with your name on them!

Once you go out and try to catch some crab, come back here and let me know how you did! Leave a comment below and tell us about it. And if you know someone else that might benefit from this crabbing guide, please take a moment to share it!

Read More: How Many Crabs Are in A Bushel?

Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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