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How To Catch Green Crabs For Bait

ryan collins my fishing cape cod breakfast

Over the next two weeks the bottom fishing in Vineyard Sound and Buzzard's Bay should really start to heat up. 

Big tautog and scup will soon be here in good numbers, and I am chomping at the bit to target tog and scup from boat, kayak and shore.

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One of the best baits for springtime tautog is the green crab. Green crabs are an invasive European species, which have taken up residence in many of Cape Cod's estuaries and marshes.

You don't need to purchase a permit to harvest green crabs, however state law requires individuals to hold a free letter of authorization from the Division of Marine Fisheries. Please contact Kerry Allard to receive a letter of authorization at 617-626-1633 or at kerry.allard@state.ma.us.

In this post, I will bring you with me on a brand new fishing adventure into one of Cape Cod's many scenic marshes. However, this time we'll swap the fishing rod for a crab pot.


Cape Cod's Spectacular Marshes

The marshes and estuaries of Cape Cod are a beautiful environment to visit. This past weekend we were gifted with some extraordinary sunny and warm weather, which was perfect for a hike into the marsh.

I always enjoy the peaceful feeling I get whenever I am out in the marsh. The singing of the sea birds, the wind through the reeds, and the rush of water against the marsh bank makes for a wonderful nature experience.

Even if I didn't catch a single green crab, I knew this trip would still be a success. How could it not be a success, when I was surrounded by picturesque dune-scapes and fresh salty air?

Cape Cod's marshes are home to thousands (dare I say millions) of green crabs. However they are also home to numerous species of terns, herons, fish, land mammals and more.

Activities like trapping my own bait make me feel like I am reliving "old Cape Cod". No doubt people have been coming into these marshes for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years in search of crabs, shellfish and other wildlife.


Baiting The Pot

Aside from enjoying nature and the beautiful scenery of the marsh, my goal during this trip was to test my new green crab pots to see if I could be successful at catching my own bait for bottom fishing.

The pot is specially designed with a hole at the top. Green crabs are climbers (not swimmers) so when they approach the pot, the crabs will climb up the side and fall through the hole.

I also added a stone weight to the bottom of the pot, which I secured in place with zip ties. For bait, I used frozen mackerel that was probably 6 months old. I cut the mackerel into chunks and used a suet cage to contain the bait.


Green Crabs Galore!

I set the pots at dead low tide and allowed them to fish for about 3 hours. I am no expert at catching crabs, so I was very curious to see what would happen.

I also added my GoPro camera to the pot to capture the action. Please click play below to watch the footage! 👇

After reviewing the video footage, I learned that it takes time for the larger crabs to climb up the pot and fall in, while the smaller crabs just walk right through the caging.

I also feel that the suet cage (pictured above) was critical to my crabbing success. Without the cage, I believe the bait would have been shredded to bits by the crabs, decreasing the effectiveness of the pot.

In total I caught about two gallons of crabs in under 3 hours. I could not of been happier as I hiked out of the marsh. Fishing success is always a gratifying feeling for me, even if I am just fishing for crabs.

Now all I need to do is find some big tautog and scup to feed these crabs to. Catching those fish on bait I caught on my own will surely make the fishing experience more gratifying.

Best of luck if you head out fishing this week. If you have any questions, then please don't hesitate to reach out.

Tight lines! 🎣

What do you think?

Let me know by commenting below.

  1. nice touch with your go pro and cage for bait, I bottom fish the mouth of the merrimack river and the crabs are a real pain, these crabs have an orange hue to them, and one outfit was commercially fishing them, do tou think these are sub species of the green crab, and if they would be good bait? They seem to be about the same size. Maine is trying to make a delicacy out of green crabs b y getting them when they molt and have soft shells and serve them in up scale restaurants. I used to fish when I was younger at a place called Priscillas landing, just before nauset beach parking lot on the left, I would launch my boat or walk all the way to the new cut, good times good fishing and beautiful views and great clamming back then! Mike from western ma. on the deerfield river

    Reply
    1. They make great bait for tautog, sea bass and scup, and I’ve also caught some nice stripers on them. So basically yes, I think it would be worth a try using the crabs! LMK how that goes. 👍🏻 Thanks for sharing the nice memories about Nauset and info about these crabs being served up as a delicacy. I would like to meet the chef who is able to make a green crab taste good! LOL. Gluck Mike and thanks for commenting. 🎣

      Reply
  2. Thanks for the inspiring article Ryan.
    Knowing my wife enjoys catching crabs and tog fishing I went ahead and called Ketchum in NB to place an order for a green crab trap. When I got there to pick it up I ran into another MFCC’er doing the same thing. Nice to meet you Benjamin!

    Our new trap will be soaking tonight!

    Reply
    1. LOL, wow no kidding! That is awesome to hear. I hope both of you guys find some crabs. I wonder if green crabs are plentiful in your area? I guess we will find out soon. Let me know how things go!

      Reply
  3. Love nature. Thank you for pics and video.

    Reply
    1. My pleasure. Glad you enjoyed it. 🎣

      Reply
  4. Nice job Ryan! Are other crab species like fiddler or rock crabs good baits as well for bottom fishing?

    Reply
    1. I think they are good baits Damien, but I’ve personally never used them before. If you give it a try, then please LMK!

      Reply
  5. Thanks for info Ryan I’ve been trying to find the green crabs in the taunton river with little to no success. Definitely more action around the marshes . I’ve got the minn kota with the spot lock if you ever want do some togging.

    Reply
    1. Good to know Jim, thanks for sharing your insight. Marshes certainly seem to be the best. And thank you for the Minn Kota spot lock tog trip invite! Using that feature must be a nice change from have to set and pull anchor.

      Reply
  6. Awesome job Ryan!!! Great pics, super-cool video, informative text; thanks so much!! BTW, brilliance on the suet feeder!! So simple, but amazingly effective!!

    Reply
    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post Max. I think the suet cakes made the difference. Gluck if you ever give green crabbing a try!

      Reply
  7. Hello Ryan,
    Great job on the crabs!!!! As always your videos are always awesome.
    Excuse my ignorance but how do you store the crabs until you go for Tog? (I have never been but will be trying it out this year)
    Fuzzknuckle

    Reply
    1. Hey Kevin,

      I store the crabs in a 5 gallon bucket, and I keep them in a dark cool place – usually my shed or the basement. They will easily last for over a week, stacked on top of one another in the bucket.

      LMK if you have any other questions. 🎣

      Reply
      1. Hi,
        Again excuse my ignorance, Salt water and a little food in the bucket?

        Reply
        1. Nope! Just toss them in the bucket and they will be fine. It’s amazing how they survive in such cramped quarters.

          green crabs in bucket

          Reply
  8. Thanks Ryan, Question, how long can you keep your crabs alive and how do you keep them? Thanks

    Reply
    1. Hey Jack 👋🏻 I keep the crabs in a 5 gallon bucket, stacked on top of one another. They will survive for easily a week (probably even longer) as long as you keep them in a cool shady spot. LMK if I can help with anything else and I hope all is well!

      Reply
  9. There is a required Letter of Authorization from Kerry Allard at Marine Fisheries, kerry.allard@state.ma.us. The requirements include marking your trap with your Authorization Number and report your harvest at the end of the season. Not a big deal. It is rewarding as you point out, it’s like raking your own sand eels, but not as tiering.

    Reply
    1. Great Jay, thank you! I appreciate you sharing that information. 👍🏻

      Catching the crabs is definitely rewarding, and I’d also like to rake some sand eels this summer.

      Reply
  10. Wow! super cool! Beautiful view of the Marsh. Great job catching the crabs. My brother took his boat out for the first time this morning and texted me a pic of the Tog he caught. I got another text tonight of the tog cooked and on his plate for dinner. What a tease!

    Reply
    1. Good news about the tog! I am hoping to catch my first tog of the season sometime this week. I will keep you posted.

      Reply

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