Crabbing is a popular pastime for many people, and the best way to catch crabs is by using the right bait. While growing up in Annapolis, MD, catching blue crabs was one of the most popular summer activities.
Whether my dad and I were running a trotline or my neighborhood buddies and I was tying chicken necks to the dock, we often had success, followed by naps and crab feasts.
In this blog post, I will discuss the best crab bait and how to use it to get better results. We’ll also talk about different types of crab traps and how to use them.
If you want to catch more crabs, you need to use the best crab bait. So read on and learn everything you need to know about the best crab bait!
Best Crab Bait – My Top 4 Recommendations
While I’ve heard of people using more than a dozen crab baits around Annapolis, I have narrowed it down to just 4, with my number one choice being a clear winner and what I have used 75% of the time.
Chicken Necks – Best Crab Bait For Blue Crabs
Chicken necks are, by far, the most popular crab bait around Annapolis and, I imagine, around the world. They are straightforward to work with, whether you tie them to a string to float under a dock or prepare a 1000′ trotline to beat the sunrise.
Crabbing with chicken necks is quite simple. We will imagine that you are crabbing from a dock to keep it simple.
Use a ball of string to tie the chicken neck on, then find a 2×4 along the dock without much around the area below in the water. Tie the twine and chicken neck and drop them into the water. Next, wait for the line to become tight and slowly (inch-by-inch) pull the line toward you. Once you get the slightest sight of the crab nibbling on the bait, it’s time to swoop in with your crab net.
The next best bait for crabbing is shrimp. You can use live or dead shrimp as bait, but I have found that dead shrimp work just as well and are easier to store and use.
You will want to use a simple rig when crabbing with shrimp as you would with chicken necks. You can also use a crab trap, which we will discuss later.
As far as execution, you can stick with the same simple process we discussed for using chicken necks.
The only difference is that you will want to put 4-5 shrimp on the line instead of just one chicken neck.
While not as popular as chicken necks or shrimp, using fish as crab bait can be effective. I’ve found that smaller fish work best, such as herring, menhaden, or anchovies.
If I had to choose just one fish to use, I’d go with Bunker, Atlantic Menhaden, which is known as one of the best crab baits in the crabbing community.
Cut this whole fish into pieces to make the most of your catch. Use a sharp knife to cut across its width for chunk-sized pieces that are easy to handle.
Last on our list of best crab bait is squid. Squid can be effective, but I’ve found it best used as a scent attractant rather than actual bait.
If you used squid, I would recommend using it in conjunction with one of the other baits on this list. For example, you could put a piece of shrimp on the line and then put a small piece of squid near it to help attract crabs.
Now that we’ve covered the best crab bait let’s talk about what to use to get better results.
Best Crab Attractant
While this is not a necessity, using crab attractant only helps your chances of filling up your bushel. Here are my picks for the best crab bait attractants.
Pro-Cure Crab Attractant
A blend of potent fish oils, salmon egg oil, amino acids and a touch of anise, this blend has been extremely effective for both species.
This attractant is my personal favorite and what I use most of the time. It’s easy to use – just put some Pro-Cure in a container and let your chicken necks or other crab bait soak in it for at least a couple of hours for best results.
Smelly Jelly Crab Attractant
This is a gel based fish attractant that stays on baits very well. A single application lasts up to several hours, takes the scent below the surface where it belongs. Works on all baits and lures. The Success rates 200-300% better than other plastics. Non-toxic, bio-safe scents are very easy to apply. Comes in 4 oz. tube.
Another good attractant is Smelly Jelly Crab Attractant. It’s a better option if you don’t have the time or patience to soak the bait. This attractant requires you to apply it on-site.
Just a single application is all you need to last all day for this attractant. It’s simple and easy to use but only comes in a 4 oz tube which goes quickly.
If you want an easier way to catch crabs, you might consider using crab traps. Crab traps are cages that you put bait in and lower into the water. The crabs will enter the trap to get the bait and then be unable to escape.
While crab traps make it easier to catch crabs, they also have a few drawbacks. First, they are more expensive than just using chicken necks or shrimp. Second, you need to check the traps frequently, or the crabs will escape.
Lastly, you are limited to the number of traps you can use by law. In Maryland, for example, you are only allowed to have 10 crab pots per person.
Best Crab Traps
Maryland Blue Crab Pot Trap
Commercial grade wire mesh with two escape rings to meet regulation. 2 funnels to catch more crabs and comes with 15 ft (4.57 m) rope with 6" EVA white float to pull and release easily.
As the name applies, this trap is best used for Blue Crabs, and no, you don’t have to be in Maryland to use it. Like many seafood restaurants will advertise “Maryland Style Crabs,” it doesn’t mean they are from Maryland.
These traps are best to keep submerged with one of the baits we discussed earlier or, even better, chicken thighs. Chicken thighs have more meat on the bone and, therefore, will last much longer than chicken necks.
Check these traps periodically and store your catch elsewhere, so the crabs already caught don’t deplete your bait.
Palmyth Wire Grid Bottom Crab Nets
The Palmyth Crab Ring was designed for the person who wants to catch the most crab with every pull. Simply toss the Crab Ring into the ocean and let the Crab come climbing to the delicious bait. This is a perfect Crab Ring when space is limited.
This crab trap requires you to be more active than our previous recommendation. It will also work effectively for any crab species you are going after.
With this trap, you toss into the water with the bait and wait for the crab to enter, then pull much more quickly than you would with a string. The same bait can be used with the traps.
The obvious downside to using these traps is that it will be more challenging to identify if the crab is in the trap or not. With that being said, it is best to suspend this trap to a point where you can still have enough sight to notice a crab inside.
Altogether, this is a good trap that applies to many situations.
If possible, using a combination of traps and strings with bait on end is the best way to approach crabbing. When the strings are not tight, you can check your traps to fill in the time and maximize your results.
Check out this video below for live footage of catching blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay:
Crabbing is a fun activity, one that I have fond memories of growing up. It’s hard to decide whether catching the crabs or eating them is more enjoyable for me.
I imagine most folks would say that cracking open crabs is their favorite part of the day, but I’ll let you be the final verdict. Let me know in the comments about some of your crabbing experiences.
Looking for even more tips for crabbing or fishing? Check out some pages below: