Essential Crabbing Equipment Checklist (Resource)

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There’s nothing better than catching your own crab and bringing it home to cook and eat. 

Start your day of crabbing out on the right foot by packing all of the essential equipment and tools for a successful outing. 

Here is our checklist, including what each tool or piece of equipment does, where to find or purchase it, and whether it’s optional or not.

Top 12 Tools & Crabbing Equipment You Need

1. Traps

Before you decide to head out you will need to select a crab trap to bring with you. Traps come in a range of different types including, trotlines and nets, crab snares, crap pots, ring crab nets, pyramid traps and more.

Each comes with its own benefits, and many crabbers will use different types for different occasions so it’s good to brush up on the benefits of each.

How alaskan king crab pots work blog post feature image
Alaskan King Crab Pots
  • Crab Pots
    • Great for piers or boat crabbing, crab pots are simple wire cages that are used to capture wandering and foraging crabs.
  • Dip Nets
    • A dip net is a basic fishing net with a pole that can be used to sweep up crabs when using a hand line.
  • Ring Crab Nets
    • Common with crabbers who prefer offshore fishing, ring crab nets are thrown off a boat or pier and use their dual ring structure to pick up crabs that wander into its center.
  • Trotlines and Nets
    • Trotlines and nets are popular with Maryland crabbers, trotlines are typically baited and spread out across a body of water via boat and left for a couple of hours. When you come back to your line the hope is that some crabs have become trapped.
  • Pyramid and Star Crab Traps
    • A popular choice among crabbers, pyramid and star crab traps are foldable traps that are used to capture foraging crabs.

Luckily most are rather affordable so you can try a couple out to see what works best in your local waters. Additionally, traps are optional as you can technically catch crabs by hand!

2. Bait

crab bait in a bait cage
Chicken Bait in Bait Cage

The bait you choose will be incredibly important, make sure you find out what works best in your area. Popular crab baits include chicken necks, razor clams, salmon and other raw fish, anchovies, and other similar meats.

You can also enhance your baits with crab attractant. Bait is not optional as you need something to help attract the crabs to your traps.

Most baits can be found at local grocery stores, or bait and tackle shops. 

3. Bushel Basket

Maryland, Cecil County Crabbing Blog Post Feature Image
Bushel Baskets

Whenever you catch a crab you will need a place to put it. The traditional carrying method is a bushel basket. These baskets are typically made out of weaved wood and provide a great spot for the crustaceans to hang out.

Just remember whenever you put crabs in a basket that you ensure they are kept wet and slightly distanced from each other. One of our favourite ways to do this is to use seaweed from the surrounding area, simply just toss some in over each crab while you’re putting them in the basket.

If you can’t find a basket online or at your local hardware store, you can use a plastic box with holes in it. 

4. Bait Bag

Bait bags are helpful if you plan on using smaller baits like clams, prawn heads or any kinds of fish guts. These will generally be attached to the center of the trap or pot with other larger baits for crabs to latch on to.

Though not required they are highly recommended and can be incredibly helpful. If you don’t have a bait bag or box, you can also try using an old sock.

5. Crab Gauge or Caliper

Crab Measuring Gauge blog post feature image
Crab Gauge

One of the most important tools to grab in this list is a crab gauge or calliper. These tools are used to measure the width of your crab to determine whether it is legal to harvest.

Crab gauges can be found at most fishing or marina shops in areas where crabs can be found. If you’re having a hard time finding a gauge, you can pick up a calliper instead. These measuring tools can be found at most hardware stores, both in-store and online.

With specialty gauges made specifically for crabbing, you typically gain the benefit of having markers for legal crabs in your state or province. This can be great for novice crabbers who are less aware of the regulations. 

6. Rope / Line

Whether you’re handlining, or crabbing from a high pier, having some spare ropes and lines on hand can be great to have around.

Line can be used to set up a simple hand line so that you can go out and catch some crab without the need for a net or trap. This is great for those who are out camping, or for when you want something simple for kids to try crabbing out.

Rope can be used in a number of scenarios and is not only helpful on a boat but can also be used to help extend your trap lines.

Easily found at most stores or online, and always affordable we highly suggest grabbing some rope for your trip/ 

7. Gloves

If you didn’t know already…crabs have claws! This makes having some heavy-duty gloves on important not only for your protection but also to make handling your catch easier.

In addition to helping protect you from the add little pinch, having gloves can also be helpful when hauling in traps and handling rope. 

Crabbing gloves can be found at fishing shops or hunting stores. While not required they are generally quite cheap and can be used for a bunch of other activities as well.

8. Zip Ties

If you’re looking for an easy way to secure the bait to your trap or pot, zip ties are your friend. Not only are they super cheap but they can be found pretty much everywhere and they’re easy to use.

Though out required, it’s worth it to toss a couple in your tackle box before you head out.

9. Boots

Having some good crabbing boots is important when you’re out on the water or crabbing from shore. Most rubber boots, hunters or similar type boot will do. 

10. Knife

Fishing Knife on the Rocks
Fishing Knife

Whether you’re looking to dice some bait, pry open a crab or cut some rope a knife can be a great tool to have on you when out on the water.

There are many great pocket and fishing knife out there so we won’t go into depth, but we will say, getting a good one is well worth the investment as it will last you for years to come.

11. Food and Water

We won’t dive too much into this one, but at least to say crabbing can be tough work!

If you plan on heading out on the water for the day then you’ll want to make sure you bring food and water to ensure you stay hydrated and nourished. It’s easy to get sunstroke or potentially have an issue on the water so it’s always important to be prepared with the essentials.

12. License

Last but not least is a crabbing/ shellfish harvesting license. This is important as catching crabs in many states or provinces without a license can be illegal.

Make sure to check in with your local fish and game, and or wildlife office to understand your local regulations or search online to understand the rules in your area. Luckily most licenses are relatively cheap and will typically allow you to catch up to a bushel of crabs a day. 

Penalty for not crabbing without a license can often involve fines of a couple of hundred dollars or even more so it’s worth it to do your research.

Read More: How To Use A Crap Trap?

Related Questions

What kind of string do you use for crabbing?

If you are looking to go crabbing with a hand line then your standard fishing line will be more than enough. If you don’t have access to fishing line, you can also make use of any other string you have available, just expect less success.


Picture of Ryan W

Ryan W

Ryan is the owner of Fisherman First and manages the team of expert writers on the site. He's fished his entire life and has been to locations across North America to catch a range of fish and crustacean from crabs and prawns to minnow and trout.