What could be better than fresh-caught blue crabs? Blue Crabs you’ve caught yourself. The waterways around Atlantic City are plentiful with these crustaceans. And a morning or afternoon crabbing with your kids is a fun family activity and something they will never forget. Just don’t tell them the crabs you caught are the same ones they are eating for dinner.
But, before heading out in search of the perfect crabbing spot, there are a few things you should know, including some popular crabbing places near Atlantic City.
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Do I Need a Crabbing License in NJ?
New Jersey does NOT require a license for crabbing if you are using collapsible crab traps or scoop nets that you can buy in any bait and tackle shop or even the local hardware store. This is considered recreational crabbing.
However, if you use a crab pot or trot line then you will need to obtain a permit. The cost of a shellfish license that covers crabbing is $2. Here’s a list of places to obtain a license. https://www.njfishandwildlife.com/agentlst.htm
NJ Crabbing Regulations You Should Know
When is Crabbing Season in New Jersey –
Crabbing season in New Jersey runs from mid-March through the end of November everywhere in NJ except the Delaware Bay where the season is mid-April to mid-December.
Don’t keep Females with eggs –
If you should come across a female Blue Crab in your pot with eggs (looks like a crab with stuffing coming out of its underside), you must return her to the water. It’s the law. Doing this keeps the crab population high which is good for crabbers year after year. But it’s also good for the environment as crabs are scavengers that clean the bay bottom.
Size restrictions for Blue Crabs in NJ –
When it comes to crabs, size matters. Peeler or shedder crabs must be a minimum of 3 inches point to point, for soft crabs it’s 3.5 inches and hard crabs must be 4.5 inches.
Daily Catch Limits for Crabs in NJ –
The daily maximum harvest for recreational crabbers is 1 bushel per day.
While these are the primary regulations regarding recreational crabbing in NJ, it is not a complete list. Other regulations you should be familiar with can be found here. https://www.new-jersey-leisure-guide.com/crabbing.html
Essential Crabbing Gear
- Traps – For recreational crabbing snare traps or pyramid traps are typically used. They basically work the same way. Once tossed into the water they lay on the bottom. The bait attracts crabs. You will need to attend to the traps closely and pull them every 10-15 minutes. The key to success is pulling the rope quickly without alerting the crabs thus allowing them time to escape.
- Bait – We’ll get to this soon
- Knife – for cutting bait and rope
- Rope – To attach to the trap
- Zip Ties – Used to secure bait inside the trap.
- Heavy Gloves – These will protect your hands from both rope burns and pinches
- Boots or old sneakers- for wading into the water and muck
- Weights (~1 lb) – To force the traps to sink to the bottom
- Bushel Basket – Used to haul your catch
- Crab Gauge, measuring tape or ruler – You’ll need this to ensure that all your crabs are of legal size
Popular Places to Crab near Atlantic City
Here are a few popular crabbing spots near Atlantic City.
- Mays Landing-Somers Point Road, Egg Harbor Township – On the way to Somers Point, on the left. Park your car and wade through the tall grassy meadows to find a path to the water.
- The Route 52 Causeway fishing pier (located between Mays Landing Road in Somers Point and Ninth Street in Ocean City) – A popular hot spot for crabbing and fishing with anglers of all ages. There are four fishing piers within the 2.2 mile stretch of the bridge.
- The bridges entering Atlantic City on Route 322/40 (Blackhorse Pike) and Route 30 (Whitehorse Pike) are favorite fishing and crabbing spots for locals and visitors alike. Find one where you see others dropping their net and join the fun. If you don’t want to crab from the bridge these are often good access spots to do some crabbing from the shore.
Consider Crabbing from a Kayak
If you own or decide to rent a kayak, this can be a great way to crab. Strap a couple of traps onto your kayak and make your way into the marshes around Atlantic City. Kayak crabbing will allow you to get to the back channels and marshlands where crabs like to hang out and fewer crabbers can access. Doing this may limit the size of your haul but since the daily catch limit for recreational crabbing is a bushel you should be fine.
Best Time and Tide to Go Crabbing in NJ
Unlike bears, crabs do not hibernate. Rather they dig into the mud and become dormant. But like bears and other animals that do hibernate, they spend the entire season getting ready for winter and building up reserves that will sustain them through winter. Therefore, Fall is when you will catch the meatiest crabs however, they may not be as plentiful.
By contrast, late spring and through the summer crabs will be their most active. But in early spring they will have used up their reserves and will not have much weight to them. Holding off until summer and fall is best.
In terms of the time of day, crabbing success is not based on a specific hour but rather coincides with the tide chart. The best time to crab is when the tide is heading in and through the slack tide. More specifically, the two hours before peak high tide and the two hours following tend to be the prime time for crabbing. At high tide, the crabs are being pushed into the bays and marshes whereas when the tide rushes back to sea they are being forced out.
There are some who say that in terms of actual time, early morning tends to be better than later in the day. That of course only applies if the timing of the tides cooperates.
What’s the Best Crabbing Bait?
Crabs have eyes but they cannot see. They rely on their keen sense of smell. Therefore, stinky bait will attract the most crabs. Here are a few options for recreational crabbers.
- Fish – Fish is a good choice for bait as it is smelly and will attract crabs. It is also oily so it will hang in the area drawing crabs to you.
- Chicken – Some people swear by chicken, especially necks. They are cheap, they are easy to tie into the trap and they are sturdy and hard for the crabs to pull apart and run off with. They are also oily.
- Squid – Squid makes and excellent crab bait but it is pricier than most of the other options. For this reason, many recreational crabbers avoid it.
- Razor Clams – These are a great option since they are part of a crab’s natural diet. Place the crabs in a mesh orange bag and secure the bag to the inside of the trap. There is no need to crush the clams.
Practical Crabbing Tips
- Plan to spend the day at the crabbing hole or at least several hours.
- Bring a folding chair, snacks, and beverages
- Protect your Skin – Wear your sunscreen and bug spray. In some areas around Atlantic City, the biting bugs are brutal. Be sure to cover your head with a hat too.
- Bring Hand Sanitizer – you will be handling bait, seaweed, mucked-up ropes, and more.
- Use gloves – Crabs pinch HARD!! Protect your hands.
- Keep your catch alive – A crab that has died before being cooked is inedible. A cooler with a bit of ice will do the trick. You can also toss some seaweed in your basket with the crabs. This will keep them cool, moist, and alive.
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