How to Crab Without a Boat: Top Tips

September 2, 2021

Catching these little crustaceans is more than just fun. If you’re wondering how to crab without a boat, we’ve got more than a couple of answers to the question. What’s more, we’ll also tell you what kind of traps you need and how to use them. Let’s get started.

The Many Ways of Crabbing without a Boat

Whether you want to catch crabs for fun or for crab cakes, there are many different answers to the question—how to crab without a boat?

You could simply go looking for them on a beach they frequent or use a hand line.

There are also tougher ways for those of you with more experience, like using a trotline or a crab pot. Let’s see which ones work out best for you, all without a boat.

From a Pier

The first thing you want to check before planning a trip is to look up the regulations. The state rules for crabbing can be quite strict in some areas depending on their efforts to save the crab population.

This is particularly important if you’re dealing with blue crabs. So, make sure you visit the Department of Natural Resources for the latest set of rules.

A lot of states demand that you have a license for saltwater fishing if you are bringing more than a couple of ring nets or hand lines.

You can, however, skip this if you are fishing from a pier. All you need to do is pay for the fishing pass. But check with the staff at the pier just to be sure that you’re on the right side of the law.

Now to business.

The first step in understanding how to crab without a boat is to figure out the essentials. If you are going to use a crab pot, get ready to spend hours on the pier.

This means you will need food, water and sunscreen. Don’t forget to bring a book and a hat too. Public piers also don’t have a lot of seating. So, a comfortable chair is not a bad idea.

Next up is the best time to go crabbing.

A couple of hours before and after the high tide is a good window to catch crabs on a pier. This is especially the case if you’re targeting blue crabs. This time period is when the water moves constantly and is known as the slack tide.

It helps with blue crabs because they like to float around in moving waters looking for food since they are known to be quite lazy to do it on their own.

If you’re targeting Dungeness crabs, you want to go in when the tide is incoming. This is exactly post low and high tide conditions. At this time, crabs are closer to the shoreline looking for food.

Finally, to the crabbing supplies.

You need top traps like ring nets, hand lines, and box traps which can be bought online.

If you’re new to crabbing, you might also want to bring a pair of tongs to hold the crabs you catch because these little guys are slimy right out of the water.

A cooler to keep the crabs fresh is also a smart move. Wrap the crabs in a damp towel in the cooler and you can keep them alive and fresh for the next 24 hours.

Then you need bait and chicken necks, which are the most popular choice. You can tie them easily to a trap and are cheap too. It also takes crabs a long time to eat one of these which buys you extra time. Some crabbers also like to use fresh fish.

From the Shore

Another answer to the question, “how to crab without a boat?”, is to crab for the shore. For this, you need to start by picking the perfect spot. It is a good idea to crab from the shore if you are using a hand line because the ocean is a little too rough.

You must pick a river, canal or an inlet that flows into the ocean. Essentially, you must steer clear of rough waters. Make sure the waves are not crashing above your ankles and you’re good to go.

Then look at the terrain.

Make sure you can access the water easily and that the shoreline is at least 100 feet. If you want to use your traps well, you must pick a seabed or a riverbed with a sandy bottom. Avoid areas with seaweed and similar things that are likely to get trapped in the, well, crab trap.

Then you need some bait and string along with the food, water, sunscreen, book and chair as mentioned earlier. If you’re crabbing near a river, it is wise to wear close-toed shoes. And if you don’t have tongs, at least get a pair of gloves so that you don’t get pinched by the crabs.

In terms of supplies, you must have at least three hand lines and a dip net. We already talked about bait, which must also be in a cooler and a different one for the crabs you catch.

From a Dock

This is the third answer to your question: how to crab without a boat. When you’re crabbing from a dock, you need to know how to set and retrieve your gear. Here’s how that’s done.

  • Step 1: Grab your crab line at one end and tie it to the dock. 
  • Step 2: Now get your ring net or crab pot and throw it into the water.
  • Step 3: If you are using a ring net, wait for 10 to 20 minutes and if you’re using a crab pot, wait for 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Step 4: Once you catch the crab, pull the ring net or crab pot back towards you. If you’re using the former, remember to pull the gear at a consistent speed so that the rings are over the crab at all times.

Let’s Talk Technique

Now, let’s talk about the different ways in which you can catch crabs. Here are the basics.

Using a Rod and Reel

Traps and drop nets are preferred ways of catching crabs. But you can do the same with a rod and a reel. What you need is fishing tackle but remember that this way you will have to wait a while.

When you use a drop net, you just leave them there and check on them from time to time to see if any crabs got trapped. We’ll get into that in a minute.

For this method, you need a rod and a reel, bait, swivel, hook and a sinker. Here’s the process in four simple steps.

  • Step 1: Get a spinning rod with a 6-8 pound test line. Set up the sinker rig with a prawn hook that is at most a size 6.
  • Step 2: Then it is time to cut roughly 24-25 inches of line for your sinker rig. Tie one end of the swivel to the sinker which is attached to the main line. Tie the other end to the leader (which is your 24-25 inches of line). Connect the prawn hook to the leader.
  • Step 3: Now pick up the hook and jab the bait into it. Cast the rod into the water that is at most 20 feet deep.
  • Step 4: Once you notice there’s a crab bite, gently lift the rod and reel it in.

Using a Hand Line

This is the easiest way to catch a crab, especially if you’re looking for Dungeness crabs on a pier. Here’s how you do it.

  • Step 1: Get a 10-20 feet long string and tie the bait at one end. Add some weight to the line if the water is rough. The other end of the line must be tied on the dock, like a post from the water.
  • Step 2: Watch the line till one of the strings moves abnormally. That means you have a crab near the line.
  • Step 3: Get hold of the string and pull it very slowly in the pier’s direction.  
  • Step 4: When the crab is closer to the surface, pull the crab out with a dip net. If you’re not careful with this step, the crab will get away.

Using Box and Star Traps

When you are crabbing on a riverbed, a star trap will come in extremely handy. These stay in the shape of a compass till a crab comes to get the bait which is usually at the center of the trap.

  • Step 1: Attach the bait in the middle of the trap with the walls folded up and set it in the water. See if you have a zip tie to hold down the bait.
  • Step 2: Secure the trap’s rope to a harness and tie it at the pier so that you don’t lose the trap.
  • Remember not to set it up in water that is shallower than 3 feet.
  • Step 3: Wait for 5-15 minutes till the crab gets to the bait and pull the rope up the trap.
  • Step 3: This will cause the trap to fold, usually in the shape of a pyramid and the crab gets trapped. Do this before the crab realizes that it’s been caught.

Wrapping Up

You can use any and all of these methods to crab without a boat depending on the location and your level of expertise.

You can also try some other techniques like trotlines if you have the expertise and well, a boat. Hopefully, we’ve solved your dilemma on how to crab without a boat. Happy crabbing!

Happy Hunting!

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