I recently purchased a crab pot and went crabbing using my SUP! Following tips from a fishing guide friend and learning while doing, here’s 14 tips for paddle board crabbing.
Crab Pot Gear and Set-Up
- Get a light collapsible crab pot that can be easily carried on your board or in-car before/after use. I got this one. Note many of the cage door clips broke when we were trying to figure how to use the pot. So we attached the doors closed with bungees and little carabiners.
- Get lead rope to the approx depth of where you’ll be dropping it. My friend suggested 100′ of line, but the spot I first put my pot in was 30′ deep so I used 30′ of rope. Lesson learned – we lost the pot during a storm surge. * Use 100′ of line.
- Make sure to securely attach the rope to the pot. I figured to the side was best to easier hoisting up. That did work. I find many loose buoys and crab pots in Puget Sound which get caught up in sea life.
- Get a bait box and secure to the middle bottom of the pot leaving crab doors free. I used velcro straps.
- Crab food: Use chicken drumsticks, salmon scraps, herring, turkey necks. Chicken worked well for us. Think about a mesh bag inside the bait box in case your scraps fall through the bait box wires.
- Purchase a crab license and have it on you while crabbing.
Protect your Hands
- Use garden or leather gloves to haul up the rough surfaced lead line. My NRS Maverick gloves worked well for keeping my hands warm and for pulling up the line.
Best Paddle Boards or Crabbing
- Figure out which board would be best for hauling out and if you need to secure the crab pot to your board. Inflatable or hard board both work.
- I think a flat decked ‘surf or all-a-rounder’ style board was best vs a displacement board with a raised deck. A longer board 12′-6″ or 14′ allows for more deck space to work with. 28″ and wider for stability. You will also travel faster with a longer board if the wind or current picks up.
- Attach your leash to your PFD waist straps. If on the ankle, your leash could get caught in the line.
- Secure the pot to the board deck. I used a large carabiner to secure to a D-Ring on the nose of my inflatable so that it wouldn’t slide off while paddling out and in. I had to go through light surf. Then had to think about where the line and buoy would sit. I have experience hauling race buoys in/out so had some idea about securing the line. You can add a deck loop with products this NSI Spectra Plug.
Launching in Surf and/or Waves
- If launching in surf or a steep beach, have a friend ready to help you haul the crab pot and/or SUP up from the surf zone. When I timed for small wave sets to get in, I found myself in a pickle with large sets coming and was unable to haul the pot and board further up the steep beach. My girlfriend helped me the second time. Like anything with a little trial and error you’ll figure out what works.
Checking your Pot
- Bungee a plastic bucket to your board to drop crabs in if you’re not bringing the pot back in for another go.
On the Beach with your Crabs
- Bring your crab measuring tool out if you don’t plan on hauling the pot to the beach. Use a bucket to haul the crabs in. For us newbies, we had to use the reg manual to determine male from female (can only keep males).
- Have a plan in place to deal with the caught crabs once onshore. YouTube has a few options, see below.
- Clean your gear with fresh water after use.
- Get pics and send to the sup board companies. They’d love to see your efforts using their gear!
- Enjoy paddle board crabbing!
Additional Tips from Friends:.
- Add weight to your pot so it doesn’t drift. I’ve had to chase mine down a twice in winds. I found a derelict commercial pot that had rebar welded in and was Very heavy. We may use it next season.
- Take a SUP surf class if you’re going through heavy surf. My spot can have 10′ close-out breaking waves. Knowing how to time the waves and have a system for carrying the pot and/or bucket and 100′ of line without getting tangled is a skill in itself.
- Break up your crabs on the beach in your bucket with saltwater.
- Cook your crabs in saltwater.
Safety While Crabbing
Last summer on Puget Sound, two friends went out on a small boat to check their crab pots at dusk and never returned. Before you go..
- Leave a Float Plan with a friend (When, where, how long and boat/board description)
- Bring a communication device like a phone in a waterproof bag/case on a tether
- Bring a waterproof tethered non blinking white light (CG requirement) for dusk or night checking
- Wear your vest life jacket. Once out there while dropping the cage my foot got caught in the line.
- Dress for water temp. Where we are, Puget Sound is cold all year. Doesn’t take long to get chilled.
- Wear bright colors in daytime to be seen by other boaters.
Preparing your Crab for Cooking
Related articles on preparing and cooking crabs..
About Rob Casey – Named a pioneer in the SUP industry by Stand Up Journal, Rob is the author of “Stand Up Paddling Flat Water to Surf and Rivers” and “Kayaking Puget Sound and the San Juans, 60 Trips.” Rob owns SUP school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle. He also runs several paddling races throughout the year. Check out my Online SUP Courses.