How to go Crabbing with a Trotline

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If you have ever wanted to catch your own crab, this article is for you! We will go over the step-by-step instructions that are needed in order to set up a trotline to catch crabs.

A trotline is simply a fishing line with baited hooks. The whole process of setting up and using a trotline can be done by one person, or it can be a fun outdoor activity that you and your friends participate in.

How to go crabbing with a trotline blog post feature image

Crabbing Trotline Requirements

To set up and use a trot-line you will need;

  • 2 lengths of chain
  • 2 crab floats
  • Nylon trot-line
  • A crab net
  • Bushel baskets, and or a storage container
  • A boat
  • Line weights

How to catch crab with a trotline

1. Set up the trot-line

A trotline is put together in several pieces. One of the most important components of a trotline is weights, such as buckets full of cement or rocks, and two floats.

Your line is then threaded through the eye of a hook on one end to create an anchor at that point in your trotline.

This anchor combined with the weights helps ensure your line is at the depth at which you intend to crab. Once you’ve gathered the components for your line you can choose your bait.

One thing to note before moving onto the next step is the length of your line. If your line exceeds the set length in your area for commercial fishing you may require a specific licence. Please check your local fish and game regulations to ensure you’re within the guidelines.

2. Select your bait

Once your line is ready you can select your bait. The bait you select for your trotline is important, unlike rough fish such as carp which will go after items such as corn, crabs prefer chicken neck without skin on it, so remember to remove this before baiting your line. If you do not have access to chicken necks for bait eel can serve as an alternative

Once your trotline has been baited you are ready to run it and begin catching some crab.

3. Run the trotline 

With your line set up and baited you’re ready to run it in your chosen crabbing area. To run the trotline you will want to take one weighted end and drop it. Then take the other end and run it along with your boat until all hooks with bait are dropped.

Once the line has been placed you will want to leave it for at least 10 minutes, many crabbers will check every couple of hours. Your schedule will depend on preferences and the crabs in your area.

You should never leave your lines unattended for longer than 24 hours. With your line set, it really becomes a waiting game.

crab caught with trotline
crab caught with trotline

4. Wait for your line to catch crabs

When you’re ready to take your lines in, grab one end of your line and begin gathering it up, along with your catch.

This is where the help of a friend will come in handy as it’s quite easy for the trotline to get tangled up if you’re not careful. Manoeuvring the boat can also prove quite the challenge if you are alone!

If you have a long line, it can be helpful to have a container to gather your trotline into as you take off your catch. Alternatively, your can wrap your line around a pole. Though this can often turn into more of a hassle than it’s worth as you have hooks all over the place. 

Curious about catching crabs? Learn how to crab with ring nets


Trotlining is an easy way to catch crabs without having to spend too much on supplies or bait. Lines are simple to set up and are able to catch crabs within minutes!

For some extra tips keep on reading.

Bonus Tips: Trot-Lining for Crabs

  • Invest in a solid net. Galvanized mesh is ideal but everyone will have their preferences. This is not an area you should cheap out on as the net will last you.
  • Bait selection and net placement are incredibly important. The best bait is fresh fish, but you can also use chicken or beef. The key here to keep in mind that the meatier your choice of food for crabbing with a trotline then it will be easier on them when they are trying to get out from underwater and back onto land as their claws won’t have anything.
  • Never leave your nets or trotline unattended. At times others can mistakenly take your lines, or you can forget about them yourselves. It’s best to check in at least every 12 hours on them.


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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.