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boat crabbing, Hetman style
Crab fishing by boat
How to Crab

 

Click on images to see larger

 

How to crab by boat or from the dock

 Boat crabbing

Crabbing from a boat allows you to access the wider range of areas for crabbing.

  • Make sure you have your shellfish license, crab measuring implement, pots or rings, cooler, bait holders and bait supply.

  • Check all line on crab pots or rings for kinks or knots to ensure they are durable and will allow gear to crab correctly.

  • Make sure all your buoys are well marked so you can distinguish them from other crab gear.

Baiting your gear

Many different types of meat are used for crab baits: turkey, chicken, mink, fish carcass, shad, herring, clams, etc…fresh bait is best.

There are just as many ways of securing your crab bait. As long as the bait stays in the gear when crabbing, and the crabs can get to it, most any method will work.

Keep in mind that seals and sea lions will eat attractive bait that they can access (e.g. laying out on a crab ring). You can avoid this problem by using a bait bag, using bait that they don’t eat (e.g. turkey legs), or avoiding areas where they are prevalent.

bait bag
A bait bag attached to a crab ring

Setting your gear and soak time

Remember to set your crab gear outside of navigational channels.

Set pots an adequate space apart from each other so that you aren’t competing against your own gear.

Try and allow between 30-45 minutes before retrieving your gear if you are crabbing with pots and 10-20 minutes if you are crabbing with rings.

crab trap
Crab in a crab trap

Retrieving your gear

Locate your buoy and approach slowly along the side of the boat.

Grab crab line just below the buoy with hand or gaff.

A "crab davit" makes retrieval much easier on your back.

When using crab rings, be sure to pull quickly at first to allow the ring to set up in a basket shape to retain all the crab feeding.

gear retrieval
Retrieving a crab ring

Sorting crab

Quickly sort through crab, being careful to not break crab legs or get your fingers pinched.

An experienced crab handler will sort crabs by keeping them at ease. They want to get out, but they don’t want to be forcefully grabbed. A quick shake of the pot is often more effective then reaching directly for them.

The difference between male and female crab

Sorting Crab
Sorting Crab

Measuring crab

With a crab gauge measure all male Dungeness crab retained. Only retain the male Dungeness crab that are 5 ¾” inches across the back (NOT including the spines) or wider.

When measuring make sure you measure in a straight line across the back immediately in front of, but NOT including the last points.

Measurement points

sublegal crab
Measuring crab

Keeping crab quality

Store legal sized “Keeper” crabs in a cooler with ice or ice packs or in a bucket of cooler with water.

If you keep your crabs in bucket or cooler with water make sure to change the water frequently to keep the water cool and oxygenated

Releasing “soft shell” crab is strongly recommended. Soft shelled crab are newly molted and are essentially a small crab in a big crabs body. Meat pick out can be very low (as little as half that of a crab in good condition) and the quality of the meat is usually stringy and less palatable.

good crabbin
Fresh crab

 

 Dock crabbing

Dock crabbing is open year round, requires little gear, and is easily done.

  • Make sure you have your shellfish license, crab measuring implement, pots or rings, cooler, bait holders and bait supply.

  • Check all line on crab pots or rings for kinks or knots to ensure they are durable and will allow gear to crab correctly.

Baiting your gear

Many different types of meat are used for crab baits: turkey, chicken, mink, fish carcass, shad, herring, clams, etc…fresh bait is best.

There are just as many ways of securing your crab bait.  As long as the bait stays in the gear when crabbing, and the crabs can get to it, most any method will work.

Keep in mind that seals and sea lions will eat attractive bait that they can access (e.g. laying out on a crab ring). You can avoid this problem by using a bait bag, using bait that they don’t eat (e.g. turkey legs), or avoiding areas where they are prevalent.

bait bag
Attaching a bait bag to a crab ring

Setting your gear and soak time

Tie the end of your crab line to the dock or pier from where you are crabbing.

Throw your crab pot or ring in the water and start crabbing.

Try and allow between 30-45 minutes before retrieving your gear if you are crabbing with crab pots and 10-20 minutes if you are crabbing with rings.

setting gear
Throwing out a crab ring

Retrieving your gear

Grab your crab line below where you have attached to the dock or pier and proceed pulling your crab ring or pot to the surface.

When crabbing with rings, remember to retrieve at a consistent speed in order to keep the sides of the ring over the crabs and retained within the ring.

gear retrival

Sorting crab

Quickly sort through crab, being careful to not break crab legs or get your fingers pinched.

An experienced crab handler will sort crabs by keeping them at ease. They want to get out, but they don’t want to be forcefully grabbed. A quick shake of the pot is often more effective then reaching directly for them.

Be sure to carefully and quickly release crab, do not throw them from heights as this will often crack their carapace and kill them.

Sorting Crab

Measuring crab

With a crab gauge measure all male Dungeness crab retained. Only retain the male Dungeness crab that are 5 ¾” inches across the back (NOT including the spines) or wider.

When measuring make sure you measure in a straight line across the back immediately in front of, but NOT including the last points.

sublegal crab

Keeping crab quality

Store legal sized “Keeper” crabs in a cooler with ice or ice packs or in a bucket of cooler with water.

If you keep your crabs in bucket or cooler with water make sure to change the water frequently to keep the water cool and oxygenated

Releasing “soft shell” crab is strongly recommended. Soft shelled crab are newly molted and are essentially a small crab in a big crabs body. Meat pick out can be very low (as little as half that of a crab in good condition) and the quality of the meat is usually stringy and less palatable.

good crabbin
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