Holle Abee has long experience fishing, crabbing, and hunting in the Southern US.
Family Fun With Crabbing
My family and I have caught hundreds of stone and blue crabs over the years. We've done almost all of our crab fishing in Georgia and Florida, in the Atlantic Ocean as well as in the Gulf of Mexico. If you’re thinking of trying your hand at crabbing, great! Even little kids can get in on the action. It’s a wonderful family activity and can be deliciously rewarding. Read on to find out more information about blue crabs, stone crabs, crab traps, crab nets, and crab season. I’ll even share my “secret” blue crab spot with you!
Blue Crab Facts
Blue crab is maybe the tastiest crab on the planet. It’s sweet, mild, and delicate and is prized by chefs and gourmets alike. With blue crabs so abundant in Florida, I’m always surprised by beach vacationers who never even think of catching their own. Not only is crabbing a fun activity that the whole family can do, but the rewards are also delicious—and cheap.
Blue crab can be served in many different ways. Some of my favorite recipes include crab cakes, crab pie, crab salad, crab quiche, and hot, cheesy crab spread. Of course, like most blue crab enthusiasts, I think they are best steamed with beer, vinegar, and spices. Once the critters are cooked, all you need is a mallet, crab crackers, melted butter, and some hot sauce or other spicy seasonings.
On some of our crabbing adventures, we’ve also caught stone crab. In most of the areas in Florida where we’ve crabbed, blue crabs are far more abundant than stone crabs. When we catch a stone crab, however, it’s a reason to get excited!
Stone Crab Claws
With a stone crab, only the claws are eaten. Some of these rascals have very meaty claws, and the meat is much easier to retrieve from a stone crab than it is from a blue crab. And, as you'll see below, you don't have to kill the crab either!
Stone crab claws are awesome! We don’t usually use a lot of spices with them like we do with blue crabs. We like to dip the meat in melted butter, lime juice, and a little salt. Sometimes we use a mustard sauce for stone crab claws.
Once you catch a stone crab, you simply break off the larger “arm” and claw, or if you so choose, you can remove both claws. The crab will grow a completely new, functional claw in a few months, provided it gets enough food. You can help it grow back too, which I'll get to shortly.
Crabbing Line Instructions
It’s actually pretty easy, as long as you’re crabbing in a good spot. In my opinion, the easiest and most successful crabbing is done with large wire crab traps. That’s not the only method, however.
If your crab experiences will be few and far between and you don't want to invest in the large wire traps, you can quickly learn how to catch crabs the old-fashioned way: with a string or line and a dip net. With this method, you tie a piece of bait to one end of the weighted line and then toss the line into a likely spot. Leave the line still so that you can watch it closely for any movement. When you see or feel a tug on the line, slowly pull it in. When you see the crab, carefully slip the net under it, and voila! You’ve caught your first blue crab.
Read More From Skyaboveus
Blue Crab Season
Before you get all excited, you need to know when the crabbing season is for your area. In Florida, blue crab season is all year unless you’re crabbing further out than three miles from shore in the Gulf of Mexico or in federal waters. These short closures are by region—not state wide.
Recreational crabbers are allowed to have up to five crab traps each, and you can catch blue crabs of any size. I'd recommend throwing back the small ones, though—they’re more trouble than they’re worth, so it’s better to let them grow up and produce more crabs.
It's also best to release the females. If they have eggs, you have to throw them back—otherwise, it's up to you. Females with eggs are usually called “sponge crabs” due to the eggs' sponge-like growth. The bag limit for blue crab in the Sunshine State is 10 gallons of whole crabs per day—and that’s for each recreational crabber.
Florida Stone Crab Season and Harvesting Rules
The state of Florida is stricter with its stone crab season. Stone crab season opens October 15 and remains in effect through May 15. The minimum legal size for the claw is two and three-quarter inches, measured from the joint at the end of the claw to the tip of the shorter claw. The recreational limit is one gallon of stone crab claws per person. If you're on a boat, you can harvest up to two gallons, provided that there are at least two people crab fishing. However, that's two gallons total, not per person!
In Florida, it’s legal to take both claws from a stone crab as long as they both measure two and three-quarters inches—except, of course, for females with eggs. I'd recommend against taking both stone crab claws. It’s much better to take the larger claw and leave the crab with one to feed and defend itself. The mortality rate is much, much lower that way, which means more stone crab claws in the future! To see how to remove stone crab claws correctly, check out the video below.
There are several types of crab traps you can buy. If you’re handy, you might even decide to build your own. We’ve tried metal pyramid crab traps, collapsible metal crab baskets, string traps, and mesh box traps. After buying and using our first box trap, we’re never going back to any other type.
Box traps are sturdy, so they don't fall apart like the string traps. It has a special holder for the bait, too, so the crabs won't eat the bait as quickly. With the box traps, you set the bait, throw the trap out, and leave it. The crabs can’t escape—unless they’re too small to bother with, anyway. These traps can also catch several crabs at one time. Honestly, if you visit the coast often, these crab traps are a great investment! They work equally well as blue crab traps and as stone crab traps.
Different crabbers have different ideas about what makes the best crab bait. From my experience, the best bait for blue crab is a smelly, oily fish like mullet or menhaden, but practically any type of fish or other flesh will work. Lots of crabbers prefer chicken parts, especially necks and backs. Chicken has the advantage of being tougher and lasting longer than most fish. One thing I have noticed is that stone crabs seem to be a little pickier about the bait they go for. In my experience, if you want to chow down on some fresh stone crab claws, go with the chicken.
Crab nets can refer to dip nets used with line crabbing, or to seine nets used to catch crabs. Believe it or not, sometimes all you need to catch a crab is a net: no bait or line necessary! The grandkids often catch blue crabs by just sighting them and trapping them in their little crab nets. This method works best in small tidal pools.
We’ve used small seines as crab nets, too, with good results. The first time I went seining for crabs, I thought there was no way we were going to catch any crabs with such a short net—I think it was only six feet in length. My friend who lived at the beach, however, assured me that she often caught crabs with it. After the first pull, I became a believer. Try using one yourself. You might be pleasantly surprised!
Best Crabbing Spots in Florida
Okay, readers, I’m going to share three of my favorite crabbing spots in Florida with you. One of them—the best of all—is sort of a secret, so keep it to yourself!
3. Fort Clinch State Park on Amelia Island
My third best spot is located in Northeast Florida, on Amelia Island. It’s the Amelia River at Fort Clinch State Park. Go to the river campground, where there’s a narrow beach at the river. This beach is rarely crowded. In fact, you might be there all alone. It’s not safe for swimming, and the beach is too small for beach activities. There might be a fisherman or two there, but most of them will probably be on the park’s pier.
If you’re using box crab traps, you can toss them in and tie them to the small dock. For line crabbing, try anywhere along the shore, but don’t go out too deep. The current in the deep channel can be deadly. At this spot, we’ve caught only blue crabs.
2. Between Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe
My second best crabbing spot is on the Gulf, between Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe. This area is located on the Florida Panhandle. There’s a large bridge connecting the two towns, and underneath that bridge is a great place for blue crab fishing.
We’ve never used crab traps here, but we’ve cleaned up on blue crabs! We used the line method, along with the spot-and-dip method. The kids loved this! They just walked along the shore, looking for swimming crabs. When they saw one, they’d scoop it up in a net. This spot ties with Anna Maria Island, which isn’t quite as good for blue crabs, but it’s great for stone crabs. Try any of the small canals on the eastern side of the island.
Port St. Joe, FL
1. Simpson Creek (South of Amelia Island)
Okay, here’s the best spot in Florida that I’ve found for blue crabs. It’s in a tidal creek called Simpson Creek, located between the southern tip of Amelia Island and Jacksonville. If you head south from Amelia Island on First Coast Highway, start looking for the creek about three or four miles after you cross Nassau Sound Bridge.
You’ll need a small boat to get these big boys, and I do mean big boys! There used to be sort of a boat ramp there, but I didn't see a driveway for vehicles when I was there today, although the dirt road just north of the creek bridge might lead to one. Otherwise, you'll need a kayak or canoe.
These were the largest blue crabs I’d ever seen, and I discovered them quite by accident.
Allow me to explain. Years ago, my ex and I were trolling in a small boat for redfish, trout, and flounder. We went pretty far up the creek, towards the east, and we found a deep pool. We decided to anchor and do some casting. Hubby caught a 4 1/2 foot-long shark, and he decided to haul it into our 14-foot bass boat. Do the math! This was not a good situation, and I was not a happy camper. “Jaws Junior” wasn’t happy, either. In fact, it was downright hostile. It began thrashing about, flipping its tail, and chomping at everything within reach of its pointy teeth. The ex was unfazed. He was determined to get some nice shark fillets.
Once the shark was killed and we had caught our breath, we noticed the shark damage. Fishing gear, soda cans, and papers were scattered in the water. As we were cleaning up, I noticed a giant blue crab inspecting a paper wrapper of some sort. As I watched, fascinated, another bruiser began fighting the first crab for the paper. Now, I’ve never been one to ignore an opportunity, so I decided to give the shelled warriors something better to chew on. I tied a piece of cut mullet to a section of fishing line, and into the brine it went—right next to the boat.
Those two crabs latched onto that smelly mullet like it was the greatest treat in the world. Heck, they were so voracious that I didn’t even have to use a dip net! They hung on long enough for me to drop them into our massive cooler. This happened over and over again, until our ice chest almost runneth over. We had a blue crab feast! I’ve returned to about the same spot several times, and I had great success again and again. When I used chicken necks, I even caught a few stone crabs along with the blue, so we enjoyed a blue crab and stone crab claws “pig out.”
Why is this such a great spot for crabs? I’ve thought about this a lot. We were pretty far up the creek, and the crabs seemed completely unafraid of us, so maybe they don’t come in contact with many humans. Also, I don’t think there’s much crabbing pressure there. I’ve never seen anyone else crabbing in the creek. In fact, I’ve rarely seen more than a couple of fishermen there at any one time. The crabs probably have access to lots of food, too, as the creek is abundant with fish. Rut-roh—good thing we’re headed to Florida for some fishing and crabbing in two weeks. I’m craving steamed blue crabs now!
Questions & Answers
Question: Do we need a license to go crabbing in Florida?
Answer: In Florida, you need a fishing license to crab.
Question: In Florida, can I eat blue crabs after the red tide, or is this not a good idea?
Answer: According to what I've found, it's safe to eat fish, shrimp, and crabs, as long as they're alive and appear healthy. Oysters and clams should not be eaten.
Question: If I don’t have a boat, but I do have crab pots, how or where do I go in Florida?
Answer: A pier or dock would probably be your best option.
Question: What type of water is best for blue crabs?
Answer: The water needs to be saltwater or brackish; like in bays, tidal creeks and rivers, estuaries, marshes, or the ocean.
Question: Can I use a trot line to crab?
Answer: You'll need to check your state's regulations.
Question: Are there any crab traps you'd recommend?
Answer: The best ones we've had have been handmade by individuals.
Question: How long or wide does a blue crab have to be to keep it when crabbing in Florida?
Answer: In FL, there's no size restrictions on blue crabs, but small ones really aren't worth the trouble. Throw those back so they can grow.
Question: We are heading to Anna Maria, and will be staying on a canal on the east side. We stay at the same place each year. We have a crab trap, and have been using chicken necks, not having much luck. Should be switch to mullet? We did catch stone crabs with chicken last November, but not blue.
Answer: We like to use chicken backs. You might want to try a different spot, though. If enough crabs are around, you can catch them with pratically any bait.
Question: Can I put my crab trap inshore?
Answer: Yes, in bays, estuaries, tidal creeks, etc.
Question: It’s the 1st of June. Can I still catch blue crabs?
Answer: Sure! At least, you can in FL.
Question: How deep should I place my trap?
Answer: Always place the trap on the ocean floor. Try different depths of water.
Question: How much is an out- of- state-license?
Answer: We paid $47 for an annual out-of-state license.
Question: Is there any good place to go crabbing in Panama City?
Answer: We've caught blue crabs from the public piers there.
Corey on September 08, 2020:
How do I register my crab traps
Fran on August 30, 2020:
I live between hernando and pasco county where is a good place to catch crabs. I dont have a boat
Nicholas Brancaccio on July 14, 2020:
are there any good spots to crab near venice fl for blue claws
Char on March 31, 2020:
Hi I have a business and would like to know do you wholesale live blue crab?
peter foti on January 19, 2020:
have a home in venice .florida..where can I crab for blue claws ?
Frank on August 22, 2019:
Any suggestions for locations in sou Florida.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on August 05, 2019:
Ms. Terri, we've had good luck under bridges around Brunswick!
Ms. Terri on August 02, 2019:
Where do I go crabbing in Georgia
habee on July 25, 2019:
Sorry, Steve. I haven't done any crabbing in that area.
Steve Gordon on July 20, 2019:
Where can I find Blue Claw near West Palm area?
MrJymmy on July 05, 2019:
Good article / been catching nice keepers (6" plus personally) in the Peace River by Punta Gorda for a month (traps) / please always throw back the females and small ones :)
Dave E on June 13, 2019:
This is the very best article about blue crabs that I have found. I live just north of Callahan, Florida. Amelia Island is only about 35 minutes from me. I am planning on catching myself some fine dinners.
The only problem that I am going to have is that I own five cats or rather they own me. I can foresee some screaming and crying and outright stealing from them once they smell the crab meat.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on April 20, 2019:
Mike b on January 19, 2019:
Are there crab in the canals of pine island. St James city
Kevin on January 06, 2019:
I live in the St. Pete area.. are there blue claws in the waters back here. We want to buy a home with a dock but I want to crab. Use to live in Cape May NJ and the crabs are plentiful in the bay/backwater areas.
Erica L Engstrom on August 09, 2018:
Any recommendations for the Destin or Niceville Florida area? We are heading out tomorrow! We are staying on Rocky Bayou. I heard Bayous are a good place to crab. We have a dock where we are staying so I figured we could crab off of the dock.
Any other places near these areas?
Ray on June 24, 2018:
Any suggestions around the Tampa area?
sal on May 16, 2018:
where can i catch blue crabs in sebastian florida.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 01, 2018:
Wes, I think it is. Check the FL Fish and Game website to make sure.
Wes on May 01, 2018:
I'm moving to florida and love crabbing I use a fishing pole and a snare box do you know if that method is legal
jerry on April 25, 2018:
Does anyone crab in or around Venice ?
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on April 19, 2018:
Sorry, Jerry, but I'm not familiar with that area.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on April 19, 2018:
Jenn, We've crabbed in that area. Try anywhere on the flats, near structures. On the river, drop your crab traps next to docks.
Jenn on April 17, 2018:
Where can I go crabbing New Port Richey FL area north or Tampa ?
Donal on April 10, 2018:
can i catch blue crabs on the intercoastal around lantana,if so what season is best thank you
Jim manfre on November 29, 2017:
Tyvm that's awesome, however it still gets cold in those parts of the state , so when do they bury in the mud, in their ear like nature hybranation? I
Live insouth fla. any spots here, I found one good on n the area but now they built dock with signs no fishing allowed. I said to the ranger but I am crabbing, not fishing, we argued but then I just packed up and left! They were kahunas caught 9 in 1 hour ?
TWoods on October 15, 2017:
@Steve Frank and Sons near Apopka
Twoods on October 15, 2017:
Where is the crabbing post at Ana Maria Island? No one in the the area seemed to know, or would tell'
Jennifer Boyle on October 12, 2017:
Thanks a Bunch!! I used to go crabbing when i was little. But just thought how fun it would be to do with my boyfriend. Pluss its free:))
Raymond on August 27, 2017:
Does anyone know where I can buy a bushel of crabs here in Orlando Fl
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 21, 2017:
Thanks, Steve! I can't believe I missed that. I made the correction.
Steve on July 20, 2017:
Directions for the Amelia Island spot aren't quite accurate. The "Shave Bridge" is on the north end of the island and crosses the ICW. The bridge on the south end is the Nassau Sound bridge and this is where he's referring to. Simpson Creek is south of that bridge.
Leeta on July 20, 2017:
Try cooking the crab in a little curry sauce with zucchini in it. I bet you will never want to eat it any other way after this. Enjoy.
Lamar on July 10, 2017:
Hey holle, are the blue crab easy to catch or plentiful in late july early aug.
zettey37 on June 26, 2017:
Thank you for such an informative Hub. Does anyone know of good areas to catch blue crab in New Smyrna, Daytona Beach areas?
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 25, 2017:
Ed, we crab in FL in the summer months.
Ed R on June 25, 2017:
What is the best time to get blue crab in Naples Fl. Im from Jersey and used to blue crabs and tried here in Florida and caught some but never enough in a few hours?
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 18, 2017:
Sorry, Joe, but I've never been crabbing there. Maybe someone else on here can help.
Joe on June 18, 2017:
How about port st loucie ? Do you know how the crabbing is ? I'm getting a home on the water can I crab off the dock ? Thanks
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 16, 2017:
Randy -How did you cook those crabs? Did you have enough for a mess?
Wild Bill on May 16, 2017:
Well Randy, I'm sure the pharmacy has something to get rid of them.
Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on May 15, 2017:
I've caught crabs even inland! :P
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 15, 2017:
Mark, you don't need a boat. Crab from shore, from a pier, or from a bridge. Have fun!
Mark Linder on May 15, 2017:
I was born in Baltimore Maryland and have crabbed the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River, and have been wanting to take my son here in Florida are there any spots that can be crabbed from the shore or do I need to get a boat?
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on April 23, 2017:
I don't know about the Treasure Coast, but I can assure you there are plenty of blue crabs in NE Florida! Let us know.
Emreeli on April 23, 2017:
My husband and I just moved to Florida a year ago from Maryland. Every summer in Maryland as soon as crab season started we would go out on the boat or on the piers line dropping or trot lining using chicken necks. When we inquired about blue crabbing here on the East Coast of Florida actually the treasure coast we were so very disappointed to learn that everyone we spoke to said there are no blue crabs here and laughed at us! So very discouraged we never even attempted to crab. Being from Maryland I've crabbed all my life even as a very small child. I mourn those days. Your article has brought new life and hope that we may find crabs yet and are going to gear up and get out there and try and prove all these people wrong. Thank you so very much for your article and encouragement. I am drooling and chomping at the bit for some steamed blue crabs and beer! Beer is abundant here and I am determined to find out if the crabs are too! If there is anyone out there who knows of any spots near Port St. Lucie Florida where we may start our search it would be greatly appreciated! If we do find a honey hole we will definitely be back on here showing our photos and encouraging others to crab. If the crabs are as abundant as you say I would never use the Trot line as we would be done in one pass on the line and not much fun for the rest of the day except to steam them up and eat them. Netting them from a single or trot line is so exciting and fun. I wouldn't want it to be over in a 10 minute run down the line or using a crab trap as traps are not exciting enough. Most of the fun and excitement is tryig to net those rascals lol. So single line dropping from a pier or boat sounds like a better way to enjoy an exciting and fun filled day on the water for this Native Marylander:) Whatever happens we will definitely be back on to let you and others know how we did. Happy crabbing!
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 31, 2017:
The bridge is on HW 98, between the two towns I mentioned. It's a big bridge, so you can't miss it. Thanks for reading!
Resanford on March 31, 2017:
Thanks for the info. I did not see in looking at maps any bridge connecting Saint Joe and Mexico Beach. Any clarification?
Scott on February 10, 2017:
Does anyone know where to go crabbing near crystal river fl.
Melissa on November 13, 2016:
Anyone aware of a great area to stone crabbing in Naples, Bonita springs area??? Thankyou
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on October 08, 2016:
I'm not familiar with Hudson, but maybe someone else will read and offer you some advice.
chantal on October 08, 2016:
Where in Hudson Fla is good?
Rmarch/deep South Louisiana on July 14, 2016:
I really enjoyed your link. I myself am a frequent recreational crabber, using string line drops with (10#bag chicken fryers spread out, on drops, directly on the surf (coast line), and with a bass net. 1/2 hour before sunrise is the best time we can start. We put our line only about 50 out in 3 feet of water. No trap needed. This is a great hobby and i usually give 3/4 of my catch to the poor and church members. I do this 3 to 4 times every summer, for many years, inbetween july4 to aug 6. In early july, on the coast line, i may get 1 1/2 dozen blue crabs, crabbin all day, with hardly any crabs in the berry stage. Around the middle of july, we will may get about 6 dozen with 20% in the berry stage. Now, july 26th, give or take 2 days, I will say is the sweetest time, where we might take 15 to 30 dozen, crabbing 4 hrs to all day with up to 30% being return because of the berry stage. Spotty shower are a plus. 87+ degrees water is a plus. It's 12 dozen per person here, limit. All states are different, so check. So, kids provide a role! They are great. Finally, if you do go in early august, you better wear tennis shoes cause you will step on some! They will be the largest and totally full, (always 99% female), but we'll return roughly 75% back cause of the berry stage. One chicken leg may have 6 crabs on it and 4 arent keepers. The bigger the crab, the faster you need to be with your dip net. Thats why i say around july 26, every year, is game-on for blue crabs on gulf coastlines! Hope this is helpful to some gd luck and tc