5 Best Times for Crabbing in 2023 – Optimal Seasons & Tips

The best times for crabbing in 2023 are between high and low tides, when water temperatures are higher, no rain is predicted, and during the peak crabbing season from September.

young happy and proud attractive fisherman showing fish and crabs basket net captures smiling at sea dock sunset in man fishing as weekend hobby concept and holidays leisure concept

Let’s face it, nothing beats the joy of tucking into lip-smacking delicious fresh crabs straight out of the ocean! And you don’t have to pay for expensive in-season crabs if you know the best times for crabbing.

Four of the best times for crabbing this year are between high and low tides (in slack water), when crabs are foraging when water temperatures are higher, and when no rain is predicted. Including during the peak crabbing season from September this year when crabs have filled out. 

Even though crabbing may sound relatively straightforward, that is unfortunately not always the case. So, read on if you want to know the best times for crabbing this year and when the conditions are ideal for catching bucketloads of crabs – in one day!

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The 4 Best Times To Go Crabbing

Before we delve into the best time to catch all types of crabs, it’s essential to note that your state’s fishing season dates may differ. 

Thus, always consult with your local fishing authorities (like ours in Georgia) and determine their legal requirements before you sink that crab pot.

So, with that said, here is a breakdown of the ideal times to go crabbing, including a comprehensive overview of this year’s prime crabbing season.

Between High And Low Tides 

sea view. blue ocean, big waves, black and white stones, high tide

Slack water or slack tides are ideal as the crabs are not knocked about by strong tide currents, so they typically forage around the shoreline. So, your chance of catching a few bucket loads is far higher.

Although, it’s essential to check your area’s tide chart and to ensure that your crab trap pots or baiting traps are ready at least 1-2 hours before high tide and 1 or 2 hours after high tide.

When Water Temperatures Are Higher 

Another essential factor to consider is the water temperature, as crabs are much less active in cold weather conditions. Thus, the ideal time to go crabbing is when water temperatures rise between 65- and 75 degrees F.

When No Rain Is Predicted

Avoid crabbing after heavy rainfall, even if the weather conditions and tide seem ideal, as crabs are far less abundant the day after a big downpour.

During Crabbing Season 

Fishing Trap

Even though it is technically possible to go crabbing all year round, the peak crabbing season for all species is between September and January next year.

Crabs are more abundant during the peak season when they have spawned, and if you are lucky enough to be in the right state, the crabbing season may stretch well into July this year. 

Although the crabbing season varies significantly from region to region, there are times of the year when crabs tend to be more abundant than others.

To illustrate this point, you can go crabbing in southern states like South Carolina and Florida throughout the year. While the crabbing season in states like Maine and Alaska is far more short-lived as it starts in October and runs till spring when average temperatures climb. 

In some states like Maryland, the prime crabbing season is during warmer periods from April to November, not in winter when crabs are less mobile and enter their dormant phases.  

The most suitable time to go crabbing for soft-shell crabs is from May until September this year. And it’s worth crabbing during that time as they can be costly if you go to a fish market or order them in a restaurant.

Soft shell crabs typically range from medium-sized crabs up to four inches to “whale size” crabs that are nearly six inches in size.

The best time for hard-shell crabs is during the beginning of fall, mainly because crabs are typically larger from September to the end of October and contain more crab meat. Although, some hard-shell crabs do not always migrate in the wintertime.

Crabs are typically meatier and filled out in the fall, especially at the beginning of September, when they tend to have a far higher crabmeat percentage. 

And there is a big difference between the meat content of crabs. While soft-shelled crabs may only contain 12% meat, hard-shelled crab species are much more generous, with an average 20-30% meat percentage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Better To Go Crabbing At Night Or Day?

Crabs, especially blue crabs, are more active at night when hunting for food on the shoreline and typically let their guard down more. During the daytime, they hide away amongst rocks and weeds.

Although it is illegal to go crabbing at night in some states. So, check with your local fishing authorities before venturing out in the evenings.

Alternatively, go crabbing at sunrise. That way, you don’t have to crawl around with a flashlight at 2 in the morning in the freezing cold.

What Is The Best Time To Catch Blue Crabs?

Virginia’s Maryland blue crabbing season is typically from March or April until the end of November and from April until mid-December.

The meatiest blue crabs are available from September until mid-November during the fall months. 

What Is The Best Bait For Crabbing?

Fresh bait is always the best for crabbing, especially chicken, shad, fish carcasses, clams, mink, or herring. However, sea lions and seals are also attracted to your crab rings, inviting bait. 

Use bait they don’t consume, like turkey or chicken, or solid pots to protect your bait from unwanted guests.

What Is The Best Weather To Go Crabbing?

Crabs prefer warm but not hot water, with temperatures ranging from 70-75 degrees F during late spring and early summer. Including towards the end of summer and the beginning of fall when temperatures are moderately warm.

What Is The Best Time Of Day To Go Crabbing In New Jersey?

The early morning hours from 4:30 to 8:30 AM are ideal for crabbing in New Jersey. Crabs tend to be far more active during the early morning.

Blue crabs are more abundant in the Delaware Bay area and its tributaries from April 6 until roughly December 4. So, that’s the ideal time to fully use nature’s bounty this year.

Final Thoughts

The four best times for crabbing this year are between high and low tides when water temperatures are higher, no rain is predicted, and during the peak crabbing season from September. Although, it’s essential to review your state’s fishing season details, as opening and closing dates may vary. 

More FAQs

What time of day is best for crabbing?

The best time for crabbing is during slack water, which refers to the time around high or low tide. Crabs are typically more active during slack water as they are able to freely move and search for food without being affected by the strong tidal currents.

What time are crabs most active?

Crabs are most active during the period of 1-2 hours before high tide until 1-2 hours after high tide when the water has good movement. This timeframe offers the best opportunity to catch crabs. However, it is important to be cautious of water currents as they can displace or trap your crab traps in the mud.

How long do you leave a crab trap out?

The recommended duration for leaving a crab trap in the water is no longer than six to eight hours. If the bait runs out, the crabs may become aggressive towards each other, often leading to the survival of a single large crab. Additionally, I personally endorse the “chicken wing” method of crabbing.

What moon phase is best for crabbing?

The best moon phase for crabbing is during the full moon. This is because crabs tend to feed before the full moon, resulting in a heavy diet to meet their nutritional needs. Additionally, during this time, crabs bury themselves in the sand to protect themselves from predators.

How do you crab hunt at night?

To crab hunt at night, you can use your flashlight to scan the beach for any movement. Ghost crabs, which are small, quick, and blend in with the sand, might be difficult to spot initially. However, with the aid of your flashlight, you will soon be able to observe them scurrying around. Make sure to aim your flashlight in the direction you want to explore.

Do crabs go on the beach at night?

Crabs do go on the beach at night, as ghost crabs, which are shy creatures, spend most of the day burrowed in the sand but come out in droves during the nighttime.

How long do you soak crab pots?

The crab pots should be soaked for approximately one to two hours at most. If the crab pots are left unattended for more than a couple of hours, it is important to remember that the crabs can quickly consume the bait. If you plan on leaving the crab pots unattended for a longer period of time, it may be advisable to use a turkey leg as bait instead.

What is the best month to catch crabs?

The best month to catch crabs depends on the area and specific type of crab. Generally, the primary season for all crab species is from October to January, when they are usually at their largest and populations are highest after spawning. However, some regions extend the crabbing season into July. It is important to know the season and timing of crabs in a particular area to ensure the freshest catch.

How do you know when crabs are ready?

The crabs are ready when they turn orange and the meat flakes when tested with a fork, which usually takes about 18-20 minutes of cooking time depending on their size. Once cooked, carefully remove the crabs from the pot using clean tongs and serve them on a platter with a sprinkle of seafood seasoning and some lemon wedges.

What is the crab limit in California?

The crab limit in California is a daily bag limit of 35 crab, with a minimum size limit of 4 inches.

Do crabs only come out in summer?

Crabs do not only come out in summer; they thrive in water temperatures ranging from 70 to 75 degrees F. The prime crab season typically spans from late spring to early summer, as well as late summer into early fall. This period is characterized by warm water conditions that are optimal for crabs, striking a balance between being warm enough but not excessively hot.

What time of day are blue crabs most active?

Blue crabs are most active after dark, when they come out from their hiding spots in eelgrass and weeds and move closer to shorelines to catch spearing and mummichogs or feed on fallen fish. This typically occurs in knee- to waist-deep water, often right against the shoreline or sod bank.

Do crabs like shallow or deep water?

Crabs prefer shallow areas in bays, harbors, and estuaries, such as around or under docks, piers, and similar structures. Many crabbers find low tide to be productive, although this may vary depending on access and local conditions. It is generally agreed upon that a moving tide is the most favorable regardless of the tide.

What month is blue crabs the biggest?

The biggest blue crabs are typically found during the fall months of September, October, and November.

Where do crabs live during the day?

Crabs live underground during the day, as they prefer to avoid the sun. In order to escape the heat of the summer days, they typically dig burrows up to four feet deep in the sand. However, at night, these crabs emerge from their burrows and come to the surface to search for food along the sandy beach.

What attracts crabs to crab trap?

Crabs are attracted to crab traps by bait, with fish and chicken being the most commonly used options. Fish is particularly effective in attracting crabs, especially if it has an oily texture, while chicken has the advantage of lasting longer. Any type or portion of chicken can be used as bait, but necks are preferred due to their affordability and ease of securing.

How long do you leave a crab trap in the water?

The recommended duration for leaving a crab trap in the water is no more than six to eight hours. This is because, after the bait is depleted, the crabs may become aggressive towards each other, often leading to the survival of a single dominant crab.

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