Best Crab Traps

Updated August 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

19 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
341 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best crab traps

Last Updated August 2019

Those who enjoy the taste of crab might be surprised to learn just how easy it is to catch your own. Whether you’re searching for a recreational crab trap for occasional use or a larger and more rugged trap for serious crabbing, you can easily find one that fits your needs. An added perk: some of these can also be used to trap shrimp, crayfish, lobster, and fish.

Dungeness, stone, rock, blue — there are a wide variety of crab types out there that grow to various sizes. Whatever type of crab you are trying to catch, you need a trap that can handle it. Generally, the larger the mesh grid, the larger the crab you will be trying for. If your target is smaller crabs, you’ll want a mesh that isn’t too large, or the crabs will walk right through it.

In this guide, we acquaint you with some of the different traps and features you need to know about when shopping for a crab trap. We also examine the price ranges for different types of traps and highlight some of the traps we feel are the best on the market.

The size of crab you are permitted to keep can change depending on the season. Check with your local fishery authorities to verify what sizes are legal when you crab.

Considerations

Traditional trap vs. casting cage

There are several different kinds of crab traps, but they boil down to two specific types: traditional traps and casting cages. It’s important to know the difference before you lay your money down.

Traditional crab traps are generally more rugged than casting cages. They are built to live in the water for longer periods. Much like a lobster pot, bait is secured inside the trap and lowered to the sea floor. Crabs enter the trap to retrieve the bait and can’t leave. These types of traps usually include some sort of buoy and rope system, so you can leave the trap and easily retrieve it later.

Casting cages are used more like fishing poles, and indeed, some can even be used with fishing poles. These are usually in the form of a basket, where bait is secured in the middle of it. The basket is lowered by a rope over the side of a pier, dock, or bridge. Crabs enter the basket to feed, and you hoist up the basket to retrieve the crabs.

Construction

Crab traps can be constructed from a variety of materials. Traps made from steel are generally more durable, and some also include a protective coating to further guard against rust and corrosion. If a trap does include a coating, be sure that the coating is durable and won’t flake off. Nylon is also used in the construction of some traps, particularly in casting cages.

The traps themselves should be lightweight for easier use. However, a trap that’s too light won’t work well if there is a strong current.

Capacity and size

A trap with larger physical dimensions will be capable of holding more crabs at a time. This is particularly important if you plan to leave your trap alone for several hours. Note, however, that a larger trap may be more difficult to use; pulling it up from the sea bed will be more of a chore. It’s also more cumbersome to store. In fact, some larger crab traps are close to three feet in diameter.

Storage

Since you can’t be crabbing all the time, your crab trap will spend a fair amount of time in storage. Does the trap you are considering easily break down or fold for compact storage? They frequently do. Also, while not standard, some traps include a carrying bag you can use to store and transport the trap.

DID YOU KNOW?

Any crab you catch that contains an egg sac must be returned to the water, as required by law.

Features

Trap openings

If you have a casting cage, crabs usually just walk into it, and you pull it up. Traditional traps are a little more complicated. With these, the crab is able to walk into the trap through one or more holes. Due to the trap design, the crab is unable to easily walk back out. If this is the kind of trap you’re shopping for, select one with multiple entrance points to catch more crabs.

The other type of trap opening is usually in the form of a hinged door on top that can be latched or secured. You use this door to remove the crabs within the trap. This removal door should be of adequate size so you can easily reach inside and remove angry crabs without getting pinched.

Bait bag/box

Bait is what lures a crab into your trap in the first place, and a bait bag or box is an easy way to secure your bait. These are usually affixed to the inside of the trap and designed to hold the bait so it won’t float or be dragged away.

A bait bag should be large enough to hold whatever bait you plan to use. It should also be rugged enough to withstand crabs constantly picking at it. Be sure that it is easy to remove for filling and cleaning.

Some traps do not include bait bags. Others have a bait clip to hold larger chunks of bait, such as fish heads.

Sinking/casting line

A crab trap should ship with a durable line that you can use to retrieve the trap from the sea floor. Check that the line is long enough to use where you plan to crab. A brightly colored line can be easier for you to spot in the water. Also, verify that the trap has a secure fastening point where you can attach the line.

Buoy

Some traps, particularly those you deploy and leave for a period of time, include buoys so you can easily find them again. Buoys should be large and bright enough to be seen even in poor light. They should be waterproof and float high enough in the water to be visible.

Commercial crab pots can weigh up to several hundred pounds.

Crab trap prices

Some crab traps cost less than $20. Others reach over $100. The latter will be of higher quality.

At the lower end of the price range, for approximately $40 or less, you will find many simple casting cages to choose from. At a higher price point, between $40 and $100, you tend to find more “set-and-forget” traps of a sturdier build. Traps in this upper range are often larger and include more quality accessories such as ropes, buoys, and storage bags.

Be sure to check a higher-priced listing to verify if you are buying a pair of traps, as this is sometimes the case.

Tips

  • Crabs should be alive when cooked. Upon death, a crab releases a toxin that leaves its meat unsafe to eat.
  • While the majority of casting traps can be cast by hand, you can also use some of them with a fishing pole to cast farther.
  • Use attached weights or even a rock to help keep a lightweight trap secure in stronger currents.
  • If a trap does not include a bait box or bag, you will need to find some way to secure the bait in the trap. This not only keeps it from floating away in the current, but it also keeps crabs from walking off with it.
  • If you are trying to catch large crabs, consider bringing rubber bands or some other item with which to secure their claws and ward off painful pinches.
  • Some crabs, like spider crabs, are not edible and should be returned to the water. Before heading out crabbing, educate yourself on the types of crabs you will encounter and which ones you can eat.
EXPERT TIP

A vertically placed bait holder will help keep the bait out of the mud.


Staff  | BestReviews

Other products we considered

We want to mention several other crab traps that stood out to us. The Hurricane Two-Ring Wire Crab Net is an inexpensive, no-frills option made from corrosion-resistant aluminum. It is a great choice for use on a dock or pier. The Drasry Portable Folded Crab Cast Net is made from steel and can be used for a variety of freshwater and saltwater crabs, shrimp, and fish. We also like the construction of the Palmyth Wire Grid Crab Net, which features iron hoops, polyethylene netting, and a bait clip.

Crabs were such an important food source for some early Native Americans that their treaties often included provisions securing crabbing rights.

FAQ

Q. Do you need a license to use a crab trap?
A.
This largely depends on where you plan to crab and what kind of trap you will be using. States and locales often vary considerably when dealing with crabbing regulations, licensing, and limits. They may also regulate specific traps and have specific licensing requirements that depend on where you are crabbing (ocean, bay, tributary).

Check with the local fish and game authorities to find out what licensing requirements and regulations you will need to adhere to.

Q. What kind of bait should I use in my trap?
A.
One factor is almost universally correct when you’re talking crab bait: the smellier, the better. Bait that has a harder texture is also effective, as crabs will have a more difficult time breaking them down quickly.

Some popular baits include fish heads and parts, chicken (particularly chicken necks), clams, liver, and bacon.

Q. How many traps ship with an order?
A.
The standard is one trap, although some ship out as pairs of traps. The latter is great for families and those interested in catching more crabs.

The team that worked on this review
  • Austin
    Austin
    Writer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer

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