How to go crabbing – what you need, where to go, what to do

Crabbing is one of those activities that I personally had zero experience of until I was an adult – it was not something I did as a child at all!  But so many people find it fun and a great activity to do while on holiday that I was super happy when I had some friends introduce myself and my kids to it a few years ago.  Crabbing is a great way to get kids involved with sealife and to learn about the marine life around our coasts.  And crabs are just really good fun to watch and learn about!


What is crabbing

Crabbing is a traditional summer activity where crab are caught, placed in buckets to be observed and then returned to the sea.  It’s popular with both young kids, older kids and also adults!  No end of times we’ve been along a harbour watching adults get just as excited as kids!

While catching more and more is tempting, why not make sure you’re studying and enjoying watching the ones you do catch.  Take pictures, maybe also do a quick sketch of them too!

The crabs that are caught are shore crabs – these aren’t edible so make sure you’re not planning on a feast!  Shore crabs are hungry little fellows who generally eat molluscs and also and dead and dying animals in the water.  This makes them great at tempting with some smelly bait!


How to go crabbing

Here’s our fairly simple guide to crabbing:


  • find your spot where you’re going to attempt to catch the crabs
  • get ready – The most important bit is to be ready with a holding place for your crabs.  Fill a bucket with sea water and some seaweed for shade for your caught crabs to stay in
  • attach some bait to your line.  Either in a special net bag or tield on to your line.  Don’t use a line with a hook.
  • Drop the line over the edge of the harbour or quayside and into the water below
  • Wait for a nibble from the crabs below – you should feel a tug on the line and it should feel a little heavier
  • bring up the crabs – they’ll be clinging to the line or the net bag eating as you bring them up!
  • use a small fishing net to transfer them in to the bucket
  • take a good look at them up close.
  • return them to the water after a short period (I like to keep them no longer than 10 mins or so) – don’t drop them from a height, find a safe, lower area to place them back.


child with crabbing net



And some further tips to make sure the crabs are being treated well and you’re not being cruel:

  • once you start bringing the crabs up, don’t let them hang for too long.  Transfer to a bucket as soon as you can
  • Don’t have more than 10 crabs in a bucket at the same time and make sure they have plenty of space
  • provide some shelter within the bucket – some seaweed or stones are a good idea
  • no poking them or being annoying to them!
  • don’t keep them too long – no more than 10 minutes at a time
  • don’t drop them back in the water from a great height


What you need to go crabbing

Crabbing is fairly simple and you don’t need a great deal of expensive equipment to give it a go.  It’s a perfect kids activity for the summer because of this.  If you’re starting from scratch you might like to get some things in advance or perhaps just wait until you get there as almost all seaside corner shops will sell what you need to give it a go.

You’ll need:

  • A bucket – large clear ones are good so you can see the crabs easily
  • A line
  • A net to place your bait in
  • A small fishing net to transfer your catch
  • some bait


And as mentioned before, make sure your bucket is filled with fresh sea water (not tap), a little bit of seaweed if possible and perhaps some stones.  Make it comfy for the crabs!


Some people like to use drop nets for crabbing too (as shown in the pic above with my daughter!) – but you can keep it simple with just a line and some bait!





What is the best bait for crabbing?

Shore crabs love to nibble on bits of meat and fish – the smellier the better.  I’ve had some success using some cheap bacon, liver and also fish heads.  If you forget to get something you’ll likely find some local shops, butchers or fishmongers nearby that will sell you what you need!


Where is the best place to go?

When looking for the best place to go crabbing, there are a few things to consider.  In general you’re looking for a quay or a harbour where you can drop your nets and lines over.  When checking out what’s around near you:

  • harbours, pontoons and quays are best
  • check for signs allowing you to crab
  • if you’re unsure, check with someone who works there
  • Always make sure you’re not getting in the way of others


You’ll find all sorts of good sites to give crabbing a go all around the UK.  I generally ask for advice from others who have been there or do a bit of a Google search which can bring up some good gems.


Another idea if you’re near the coast is rock pooling! – Check out our guide here

    Safety advice for crabbing

    As with all waterside activities it’s a good idea to keep in mind some safety tips when heading off to do a days crabbing.


    First of all, always make sure kids are supervised while crabbing.

    Stay well away from the edges of the harbour walls

    Crabs may well nip – try and keep away from their pincers

    Wash your hands afterwards!




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