How to go pier crabbing

If you’ve never gone pier crabbing, then I’ll share with you step by step how to go pier crabbing so you’ll feel comfortable when you go on your first pier crabbing outing.

Below is a short video example of crabbing on a pier using a crab net: 

Note, you’ll want to review your state’s Department of Fish & Wildlife regulations for all updated rules regarding if you need a fishing permit, where and when you can crab, as well as minimum size requirements for specific species of crabs and related bag limits. If you plan to cook and eat crab you catch, you should first conduct your own research regarding crab consumption guidelines and advisories.

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Why pier crabbing?

Pier crabbing is an easy affordable fun activity for the entire family. You drive up to the pier, cart your equipment to a spot on the pier, drop your crab rings/snares/cages into the water, then pull them up and pick out the crabs. Typically you don’t have to worry about the tide (see my article about high/low tides, click here), seaweed/debris or finding the right location on the beach as you would with surf crabbing. And, you don’t need a boat as required by boat crabbing.

Crabbing bait

As for crab bait, my wife likes to use many different types of bait at the same time. She likes the following types of bait:


-Fish heads from grocery store and/or sardines

-Chicken liver


Best crab traps for pier crabbing

In my opinion, if you or your older kids can handle an ocean fishing pole, crab snares are probably the most effective trap to use whether you are on a pier or at the beach. You can place the crab snares where you want in the water, close to the pier or further away from the pier. I enjoy using an ocean fishing rod and crab snare when I go crabbing on a pier, see my article about surf crabbing for all of the snare crabbing equipment I use, click here. But, if you have younger kids like me, then crab snares probably won’t be suitable for them.

You can use crab cages (see below) on a pier, but you typically would drop the cage in the water and leave it in the water for an extended period of time. It takes longer for crabs to find the entrance to the cage and get into it. Because of how you use a crab cage, it’s typically not as interactive and fun for kids. Below is a link to purchase this crab cage if you want to try it out.

Crab Cage (aka Crab Pot)

Promar TR-555 Folding Crab Trap with top Door –

Crab rings (see below) are typically the crab trap of choice for families when pier crabbing because they are easy to use and need to be checked regularly. All you do is drop the ring in the water from the pier, wait 10 minutes or longer, then pull up the ring and pull out the crabs. My kids love pulling the crab rings out of the water.

There are two types of nets you can get, a large net that does not collapse. See picture below. This type of net is great for older kids and adults because of size and weight.

Crab Ring (aka Crab Net)

The crab ring picture above has a crab snare attached to the center ring. I forgot to bring the bait cage (see example below) that we usually secure to the inner crab ring, so we improvised. But, I would recommend using a bait cage so that you have a substantial amount of bait to attract more crabs.

The second type of crab net is a smaller folding crab net, see picture and video below. This net is compact and light so small kids can easily pull out of the water onto the pier.

So, if you decide to go with crab rings for your crabbing equipment, below are links to the equipment we use. Zip ties are used to tie the bait cage to the small crab ring. Some people buy more than one crab net so they can alternate pulling up them up.

SENSORY4U Folding Castable Crab Trap –

KUFA Sports Stainless Steel Frame Casting Crab Trap –

Promar 32-Inch Lobster and Crab Net –

Promar Wire Bait Cage –

5 Gallon Bucket (6-Pack) –

Cable Zip Ties –

Other Equipment

Knife and small cutting board – For cutting the bait and the fishing line too. I have a Camillus Carbonitride Titanium folding knife, it’s relatively inexpensive and durable. I also purchased a leather case that can attach to my belt so I don’t have to reach into my pockets with wet or bait covered hands. See links below.

Camillus Carbonitride Titanium Folding Knife –

Leather Sheath for Folding Knife Sheath –

Cutting Board –

Disposable gloves (or fishing gloves) – Some people, like my wife, prefer to wear gloves when handling the crab bait.

Medpride Medical Vinyl Examination Gloves –

These fishing gloves come in with pink, blue, or red accents, see link below. My wife bought the pink gloves, but I just use my hands to insert bait, then rinse hands with water and wipe with rag.

Berkley Fishing Gloves –

5 gallon buckets with lid and rope – Storage for the crabs you catch. If you want to place crabs in sea water, then you’ll need a rope if you’re crabbing from a pier or steep shore. You’ll want to put the lid on during transport home to minimize smell. Check with your state’s regulatory department regarding transportation of crabs or fish. See links below for bucket we use.

Home Depot 5 Gallon Buckets –

Promar NE-100 Poly Crab Line, 100-Feet –

Light – Camping flashlight, lantern and work light if you’re fishing at dawn or dusk or at night. See links below to purchase. 

Duracell Durabeam Ultra LED Flashlight 500 Lumens –

LitezAll 2000 Lumen Camping Lantern –

Sanlinkee LED Rechargeable Work Light –

Tap water – I usually bring a gallon of tap water for washing hands.

Rags – For wiping hands after touching bait.

Bathrooms – Some crabbing sites don’t have bathrooms or the bathrooms present are really bad. If the bathrooms are bad, you may want to carry toilet paper and seat covers with you. If you prefer not to use public bathrooms or there are none, you may want to invest in a portable toilet. See links below for options that my family uses.

When we are doing a day trip, we usually go with the toilet seat cover or the Reliance Products Fold-to-Go Collapsible Portable Toilet because they take up less space in the SUV. We use the Hike Crew Advanced Portable Outdoor Camping and Travel Toilet when we go on camping trips.

Toilet Seat Covers Disposable –

Reliance Products Fold-to-Go Collapsible Portable Toilet –

Reliance Double Doodie Toilet Waste Bag 6 Pack –

Hike Crew Advanced Portable Outdoor Camping and Travel Toilet –

WolfWise Pop Up Privacy Tent –

Camping chairs – You’ll want to get good camping chairs since you’re mostly sitting waiting to pull in your crab snares. Below are the chairs we use on the beach. They are sturdy and have a small cooler built into the arm rest.

Coleman Portable Camping Quad Chair –

Wagon – If your crabbing spot is far from your car, you may need to bring a collapsible wagon for carrying your equipment and supplies to your crabbing spot. Here is a link to highly rated and affordable collapsible wagon:

Mac Sports CAMO Mac Wagon –

I hope you feel confident about how to go pier crabbing now, happy crabbing!

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