Home Fishing Tips & Advice Best Time of Day to Go Crabbing

Best Time of Day to Go Crabbing

Sometimes, the crabs just don’t bite. There’s nothing more disappointing than pulling up your crab trap and seeing it empty or even worse, filled with garbage brought in by the tide. You might try to find a different spot or to use different bait, but chances are, those aren’t the reason you’re not catching any crabs. It all comes down to the time of day you go crabbing. 

The best time to go crabbing is at the point in the day that is two hours before high tide, or two hours after high tide.

Sure, crabs are particular about where they hang out and hunt for food, as well as what they like to eat. So these are important factors to take in when you go crabbing. However, if you’re not casting your traps at the right time of day, you’re not going to be catching anything. Many expert crab anglers agree that the most important feature to bringing in the crabs is determining when to hit the waters.

Crabs are picky little critters and so it’s important that you get everything right when you go out crabbing. Finding the right spot and bringing the right bait will go a long way in bringing them in, but only if you’re out crabbing when the crabbing is good. Certain times of day are likely to increase you haul every time. You can go from empty traps to not enough space by simply casting out when the tide is just about to change to high tide, or a few hours after.

What’s the Weather Looking Like?

Crab when the weather suits you best as this will help both your experience and your ability to crab. Unless you’re a commercial crabber or crabbing is your livelihood, there’s no reason you should be out on the waters when things aren’t looking good up in the sky. If a thunderstorm is approaching and you’re worried about the safety of you and your boat, stay back and wait for it to pass over. Crabbing is best done after the storm anyways.

The weather above you doesn’t matter as much as long as the water is right. Crabs have a preferred temperature and so when the water begins to drop in temperature, you might find less crabs. However, if it’s freezing above, but temperate below, the crabbing is still doable. Crabs are selfish and don’t much care about what weather you’re going through. As long as the temperature is nice for them, they’ll be around.

We also recommend going fishing directly after a rainstorm. Let the storm cool down before you embark on your journey, but this is easily the best time to go fishing for crabs as the storm brought up all sorts of nasty tides below the surface. The crabs become much more active after the storm passes, probably because of the activity that the storm brought with it now departing. Once the rain and thunder are gone, grab your gear and start crabbing.

Best Time Varies By Season

Depending on where you’re located, there might be seasonal shifts in the best time to go crabbing. In warmer regions like Florida or the gulf, you could find plenty of chances to go crabbing year round. In the winter when the northern waters get colder, chances are you’ll see the migrating crabs taking residence in your waters. If the waters stay warm year-round where you live, then you’ll be likely to find plenty of opportunities to go crabbing.

If you live in a northern region where crabbing is an entire industry like Maryland or Maine, then you’ll be more limited as to when you can go crabbing. In part this is because the waters will start to get too cold for the crabs as fall rolls around and you’ll see much less activity. At this point, the time of day you go crabbing won’t make too much of a difference as the crabs either won’t be there or simply won’t be active enough to bring anything in.

When is Crabbing Season?

Another factor that goes into when you can go crabbing is what the local laws state. Different states have different regulations on when you can go crabbing. These are based on the local populations of crabs and how their numbers are doing. If the crabs in your area are doing fine, then you likely won’t be too limited by the crabbing season. If you don’t have year-round access or the crabs are endangered in your area, then your crabbing season might be much shorter.

These laws are constantly updating, so be sure to check your local legislation before you go crabbing and be aware of all local crabbing laws. States like Rhode Island offer year-round crabbing, but states like South Carolina restrict crabbing to only a few months throughout the year. Other states like Hawaii restrict crabbing based on the species of crab.

Stick to the Day

You might think the best time to go crabbing would be at night when some species of crabs are most active. After all, this is one of the best times for high tide fishing, right? Well, unfortunately for many, most states hold night crabbing as illegal. Some states allow for night crabbing, but most do not. Be smart and check your local laws before you go crabbing as you don’t want to be caught illegally crabbing when you’re unaware of the laws.

Crabbing at Slack Tide

As mentioned in our introduction, try to go crabbing two hours before high tide or two hours after high tide. This is something known as slack tide and is when the crabs will be most active. You head out during slack tide with the right tools in the right locations, then you’ll be pulling in traps filled with crabs like you never have before.

The reason why slack tide is so beneficial for crabbers is because this is when the water below the surface is most active. Active water leads to active crabs which leads to hungry stomachs. They’ll be much more likely to go after your bait during slack tide as they’ll already be up and about. Pick your time to go crabbing correct, and your haul will never be better.