Do you Crab During High or Low Tide?

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This is a question that many people ask themselves when they are deciding what time to go crabbing. One of the most common mistakes that people make is assuming that high tide means more crabs, but this isn’t always true.

In order to find out whether it’s better to go crabbing during high or low tides, we need to understand what a tide actually is and how it affects the number of crabs in an area.

This article will first define what tides are then explain how they impact crabbing conditions. At the end 


What is a Tide?

A tide represents either the rising or falling of the sea levels. In the case of the sea levels raising you have a high tide, as they lower you have a low tide. The tides typically go through this cycle twice in a lunar day based on the attraction (i.e. gravitational pull) of the moon and sun. Tides originate in the oceans and will progress to shore.


Relationship between Tides and Crabs

During the time in which tides are in flux crabs will often be pushed around by tidal exchange. This isn’t to say you can’t catch them during this period, it will just be harder. Crabs are generally to catch in slack water (i.e  Slack Tide).


Slack Tide

Slack tide is the short time in which the water is the calmest. This occurs right before the reverse of the tidal directions. The slack tide will last from 2.5 to 3 hours. 


What’s the Best Time of Day to Go Crabbing?

The best time of day to go crabbing is when the slack water (otherwise known as slack tide) is present, this is the period around the high or low tide. During this time the crabs will not be pushed around by heavy waters or currents and will often be found out foraging on the beach. 

Just because this is the ideal time of day to go crabbing, it doesn’t mean you can’t crabs during other times of the day. Additionally, your location will also impact when the ideal time of day to go crab is.

Do you Crab During High or Low Tide blog post feature image

Onshore Crabbing

  • When trying to catching crabs from onshore, either off a dock or beach you will want to wait for high slack. This is the optimal time to catch crabs as the waters will generally be the calmest. 


Ocean Crabbing

  • Time of day is less important when crabbing on the ocean as you don’t need to concern yourself with depths as much. When catching crabs on the ocean the state of the sea, and where you located will typically be much more important. 


So what affects the number of crabs?  The number and size of crabs that you will find at any given time is largely dependent on what level of the tide is currently occurring, as well as a number of factors that may be out of your control. 

During the high tidal (i.e. Halfway between high and low tide) it can be difficult to catch crabs as they will often be taken away by the waters across the tidal flats. The small tide is less impactful to your crabbing efforts. 

In general slack tide / high slack is ideal, but incoming can also work for catching crab just don’t expect as much!

High slack is typically when you will see crabs out feeding making it likely your best time to increase your chances of catching crab because they are typically out feeding at this point in the cycle of tide. 

Crabbing in the ocean and after it’s rained is a different story altogether. After heavy rainfall, you will typically see crabs move to specific areas. When crabbing in the ocean it’s much more about the state of the sea and the location of your boat. 

If the waters are calm, your boat and traps can rest allowing the chance for more crabs to crawl in. During heavier waters and swells, traps that have not been weighted or properly secured can often shift.


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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.