One of the most popular activities to try out in seaside towns across the UK is crabbing. No matter your age, it’s a fun way to spend hours at a time trying to catch the snappy red crustaceans.
Being successful when crabbing can sometimes be a challenge, however, so don’t be disheartened if the crabs elude you at first. To help out, read our crabbing tips for a full guide on how to get to grips with this fun activity.
The first thing you’ll need to be aware of before going crabbing is what equipment you should have at the ready. Here’s what you’ll need:
- A bucket: When you catch a crab, you’ll need somewhere to put it! Have a bucket prepared that you can transfer them into as soon as you’ve pulled them out. Remember to fill the bucket with sea water too, and the bigger it is the better to avoid overcrowding.
- A net: While nets aren’t always necessary, especially for the more seasoned pros at crabbing, they can come in handy to prevent crabs from getting away once you’ve got them on the line. As you pull them out of the water, they’ll try to jump to freedom. Having a net to position underneath them will ensure you catch the most energetic ones.
- A crab line: Besides the bucket, the most important piece of equipment for crabbing is a crab line. This consists of a string or fishing wire with a weight at the end that it can sink below the water. Some lines also have nets already attached, which makes crabbing even easier. Others also have bags tied on where you can put the bait and make sure it doesn’t float away.
- Bait: Once you’ve got the line, net, and bucket, all you need is something to attract the crabs! The most common bait you’ll find people using is bits of bacon, but any other pieces of raw meat can also do the job, such as sardines, liver, and chicken.
All the equipment you will need for crabbing will usually be available in shops around the seaside towns near you.
How to go crabbing in the UK
Crabbing in the UK is a fun activity for adults and children alike. Here’s our step-by-step guide.
Steps to catch crabs in the UK:
Find a good spot to go crabbing. Look for somewhere with a vertical drop where you can easily lower your line, such as the side of a harbour. Ideally the water should be clear of any seaweed or debris so the line doesn’t get caught.
Fill your bucket with seawater. Head down to the nearest beach and scoop up some water so the bucket is about half full.
Attach your bait to the line. Depending on what type of crab line you have, you may either have to tie it on, or there may be a bag attached in which you can store it.
Lower the line gently into the water. The weight will help it sink slowly down, so just keep unravelling the line until you feel it reach the bottom.
Wait for something to bite. You may feel a slight tug on the line when a crab gets to the bait, but that’s not always the case so you’ll have to periodically reel the line up again just enough to check if anything’s hanging on the end.
Once you’ve got a crab on the line, raise the line slowly up. This is most challenging step, as you’ll need to be fast enough to keep the crabs interested enough in the bait to stay attached, while also reeling in slowly enough that they hardly realise it’s happening! Once you’ve reeled them in close enough, ease them into the bucket.
Top tips for crabbing
Need more guidance? Check out these key crabbing tips:
- Go crabbing during slack water, the period of time during high or low tide. This is because crabs will be active and looking for food while they don’t have to fight against the pull of the tide.
- Don’t keep too many crabs in the bucket at once. There should be enough space that they’re not constantly crawling over each other, and if they start fighting and becoming aggressive then it’s time to put them back in the sea.
- Don’t be disheartened if at first you don’t succeed. Crabbing requires a lot of patience, and sometimes it might take a while to even get the first one on your line, let alone pull it up to get it in your bucket. But don’t worry, leave the bait underwater for a few minutes at a time, check it now and again, and you’re bound to find something hanging on at the end. Once you do, you’ll soon realise how addictive crabbing can be!
- Use fresh bait. The smellier the meat the better, as this will be more successful at luring in crabs. If you’ve had a long period without finding any crabs at the end of the line, try replacing the bait so there’s something more alluring for them.
- You can pick up the crabs you catch, but watch your fingers! The best way to hold one safely is by approaching from behind and grasping them with one finger on top of their shell and one underneath. This way you’ll avoid their pincers.
The best places to go crabbing in the UK
- Cromer – The pier in Cromer offers a perfect spot to drop a line from.
- Blakeney – Lots of crabs can be found around Blakeney Quay.
- Saundersfoot – There’s a great crabbing station in the harbour that’s popular in the summer specifically for catching crabs, and it’s one of our favourite things to do in Saundersfoot.
- Whitby – The harbour walls and near the swing bridge are both good locations to try crabbing.
- Whitstable Harbour – This is one of the best places to go crabbing in Kent.
How to hold a crab
When handling a crab, it’s important to exercise caution as they can pinch with their claws. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to hold a crab safely:
- Approach from the rear: Position yourself behind the crab, away from its claws. This way, you minimise the risk of getting pinched.
- Grab the back of the crab: With one hand, approach from the back of the crab and put your thumb over the top shell, known as the carapace, and fingers underneath. Ensure you have a secure hold, but be gentle to avoid injuring the crab or damaging its shell.
- Lift with care: Lift the crab gently, supporting its weight from underneath the body. Be mindful of the crab’s legs, which may wiggle and try to reach you, but avoid grabbing them.
- Avoid the abdomen: It’s best to avoid touching or squeezing the crab’s abdomen, as it is delicate and houses the crab’s internal organs.
- Release the crab safely: Like all animals, you don’t want to cause the crab too much distress, so don’t keep hold of it for too long. To release the crab, find a suitable spot near the water, such as a sandy or rocky area, and lower it gently back into the water. Allow the crab to scuttle away on its own.
When can you go crabbing in the UK?
Crabbing can be done all year round in the UK, with summer and autumn being popular times for tourists to try it out when visiting seaside towns up and down the country.
What time of day is best for crabbing?
Generally, crabbing is best around high tide when the water is at its calmest, as this is when crabs are most active. At low tide, it can be challenging to find a suitable spot of water deep enough for crabbing.
What’s the best time of year to go crabbing?
There’s no single best time of year to go crabbing, and trying it during any month can be rewarding. In fact, it’s a great way to spend time by the sea even when it’s grey or rainy.
However, to increase your chances of finding crabs, go crabbing during summer as they can be more elusive in the colder waters during wintertime.
What is the best bait for crabbing?
Most raw meat does a good job as bait for crabs. Bacon is most commonly used as it’s easy to find in shops, but other smelly meats like liver, sardines, and squid are also great to use.
How long do you leave a crab line in for?
You should leave a crab line in the water for approximately 5 minutes unless you’re confident you’ve felt a tug that might suggest a crab has already caught hold. This timeframe allows enough time for crabs to be attracted to the bait and start feeding on it.