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Surf crabbing with crab snares for beginners

I’ve been crabbing since I was a kid, throwing crab nets off of a pier and hauling up crabs. But, now I have three kids and my wife and I wanted to take them crabbing more often. But, packing and transporting several 36 inch smelly and wet crab nets in the SUV was not working out. Also, you have to transport the bait cages and bring enough bait to fill them.

36 inch crab nets

So, my wife did some research and found information about surf crabbing with crab snares. So, this article is a “how-to” for surf crabbing with crab snares for beginners. Below is a short video of me catching a crab using a crab snare.

Note, you’ll want to review crabbing guidelines at your state’s applicable regulatory agency regarding all updated rules, seasons, bag limits, etc. If you plan to cook and eat crab you catch, you should first conduct your own research regarding crab consumption guidelines and advisories.

Please keep in mind that links in my posts are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate and Walmart Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you go through them to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. Earning commissions enables me to write, manage and maintain this free blog for readers like you.

1. Purchase a fishing rod, reel and stand.

From the research my wife and I did, you’re going to want a 10-12 foot ocean/surf fishing rod and an 6000 (or 60) to 8000 (or 80) reel.

The rod size is self explanatory. The reason you’ll want a rod this size is that the longer rods are more substantial in their construction and you’ll need this because of the weight you’ll be casting and reeling in due to the crab snare weight, snare bait and the crabs you’ve snared. Also, you’ll be fighting against ocean current when reeling the crab(s) in.

The reel numbers indicate size and can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Size relates to how much of a type/test line a reel can hold. Test line is defined as the most weight that a particular line can hold before breaking. Sizes basically break down as follows:

  • Small spin reel category
    • From 1000 (or 10) can accommodate 4-8 lb braided test line
    • To 3500 (or 35 or 350) can accommodate 6-14 lb braided test line
  • Medium spin reel category
    • From 4000 (or 40) can accommodate 8-20 lb braided test line
    • To 5500 (or 55 or 550) can accommodate 10-25 lb braided test line
  • Large spin reel category
    • From 6000 (or 60) can accommodate 12-30 lb braided test line
    • To 10500 can accommodate 50+ lb braided test line

Fishing Rod & Reel – My wife purchased the Penn Pursuit III Reel & Rod Combo and we’ve been using it for a year and haven’t had any issues. I like her rod and reel better than the one I bought, it’s better quality construction. Check out my detailed review of the Penn Pursuit III Reel & Rod Combo.

Note, we purchased the 10 foot Penn Pursuit III Reel & Rod Combo with the 8000 size spinning reel.

If you want to purchase the rod and reel I use, visit link below:

Amazon – Penn Pursuit III Rod & Reel –

If the Penn Pursuit III Rod & Reel combo above is out of stock, below are some other options by Penn brand that would work as well:

Penn Battle III LE Spinning Reel and Fishing Rod Combo, 8000 Reel Size, 10′, Heavy – 2pc –

PENN Battle II Combo Black, 8000 Reel Size – 10′ – Heavy – 2pc –

If you already have a rod or reel want to buy either a rod or reel separately reel, visit links below:

Amazon – PENN Pursuit III Spinning Fishing Reel –

Penn PRESFII1530S10 Prevail II Surf Spinning Rod, 10′, 2pc, Medium –

BERRYPRO Surf Spinning Fishing Rod Graphite Spinning Rod –

Fishing Pole Stand – For surf crabbing/fishing, you want a very sturdy stand because of the weight and size of the fishing pole and the ocean current. Below is the stand we use when we’re surf crabbing:

Boone Sand Spike –

2. Buy fishing line that can support crab snare and crabs.

Current braided fishing lines are braided or woven fibers of a man-made materials like Dacron, Spectra or micro-dyneema into a strand of line. Braided lines often have 1/3 to 1/4 the diameter of mono or fluorocarbon lines, therefore you can fit much longer braided line on a spool than monofilament or fluorocarbon line for the same strength. Braided lines have very little stretch, are very flexible and can be easier to cast long distances.

Based on our research, it was suggested we buy at least a 30 lb braided test line. We actually purchased 300 yards of the 50 lb test of the RUNCL PowerBraid Fishing Line. We’ve been using it for a year for surf crabbing and haven’t had any issues with lines breaking or tangling. If you’d like to purchase:

You’ll also need barrel swivels because they will make it easier to attach your fishing line to the crab snares, see link below.

Dr.Fish Fishing Barrel Swivel with Safety Snap –

Below is how I tie my barrel swivel to my fishing line. It’s the same knot I use to tie my fishing hooks to my fishing line when I’m going bass or trout fishing:

3. Purchase crab snares and crab gauge.

I purchased many different brands of crab snares online. We tried several brands and when we found one we liked we tried to order more, but they were always sold out. Sometimes you’ll loose snares because they get snagged on something. So, we moved on and found another crab snare that worked well and is usually readily available to purchase online: AirFly Custom Made Crab Snare. See video below of me using a snare to catch a dungeness crab:

We noticed that the different brands of crab snares all had cages that were pretty similar in design, box shaped cage with a lid on the top secured with a rubber band and hook. But, the other brands of snares were typically smaller in dimensions, which poses an issue for adding sufficient weights to the bottom of the snares and for inserting a sufficient amount of bait in the cage. Also, the other brands typically had a triangle fishing weight or no weights at all. I believe this type of set up can be an issue because the cage can roll around and land on the wrong side and the loops will be flattened. See pictures below.

Other Brand (Left) and AirFly Brand (Right)
Other Brands Triangle Fishing Weight

Based on my experience, I think the snares with weights integrated into the bottom of the cage (melted lead or rectangular blocks) work best because they help the cage bottoms lay on the ocean floor correctly so the loops are standing up and this enables the snares to entangle crab legs and claws more easily. Also, sufficient weight (3-4 or more ounces) keeps the snares in one place at the bottom of the ocean where the crabs are versus being tossed around by the currents. See pictures below. Note, AirFly snares only come with one 1 ounce weight, but we add more 2-3 more 1 ounce weights (see links below to buy extra weights) because the ocean currents can be strong and I want the cage to stay on the ocean floor. See picture below of my modified AirFly snare.

Modified AirFly Snare (I added more weights to bottom of the cage.)
Modified AirFly Snare (I added more weights to bottom of the cage.)

The other important trait of a good crab snare are the loops (snares) that catch the crabs. I believe the crab snares that work the best have loops that sit upright so the crabs will get entangled in the loops when trying to eat the bait in the cage, see picture below. Another important trait of good loops is that the loops are not too stiff. If the loops are too stiff, the loop will have a difficult time closing on the crab’s claw or leg when you pull the snare in.

Picture of my modified AirFly Snare (I added extra weights)
Picture of my modified AirFly Snare (I added extra weights)

Another thing to keep in mind, when you store and transport your crab snares it is a good idea to tie the loops together to help keep their shape (so loops don’t get smashed). See picture below.

Use a tie to tie together loops when transporting to help the loops keep their shape.

Tip – I would recommend buying at least 1 crab snare per a person in your group plus 1 or more. Sometimes your crab snares can get snagged and occasionally you will lose a snare, so you want to have back up snares so your crabbing trip isn’t ruined.

Below is the AirFly crab snare that we like to use currently and it can be ordered easily on Amazon:

AirFly Custom Made Crab Snare (Single) –

AirFly Custom Made Crab Snare Crab Gauge, Measure for CA, WA & OR –

AirFly Custom Made Crab Snares (2 pack) –

AirFly Dungeness Crab Gauge, Concave Black –

AirFly Custom Made Crab Snares –

AirFly Crab Snare + Castable Crab Hawk Trap –

AirFly typically includes extra blue loops with your crab snare in case you loose a loop. Below are extra tools and materials you can order on Amazon to attach replacement loops onto your crab snare and to modify the weights attached to the bottom of the snare:

ACCRETION 1 Oz Grey Lead Free Adhesive Backed Wheel Weights –

Cable Zip Ties Nylon Self Locking –

Wire Flush Cutters –

Long Nose Pliers –

Wire rope crimping tool and double barrel ferrule crimp sleeve –

We purchased a crab gauge because it is a convenient tool to have because the gauge is set up with the different minimum sizes for different types of crabs that you’ll catch. You’ll want to confirm that the crab gauge you purchase meets your state’s laws regarding crabbing.

AirFly Dungeness Crab Gauge –

4. Types of bait we buy for crabbing.

My wife stuffing the snares with various types of bait…a buffet for the crabs.

My wife likes to load up the small cage with many different types of bait at the same time. She likes the following types of bait:

  • Chicken
  • Fish heads from grocery store and/or sardines
  • Chicken liver
  • Shrimp
  • Squid

I think this is the secret to catching crabs, using a buffet of bait. You’ll want to make sure you put the bait in an air tight container when transporting, otherwise your car will smell like bait.

5. Other crabbing items and equipment.

Knife and small cutting board – For cutting the bait and the fishing line too. I have a Camillus Carbonitride Titanium folding knife, it’s relatively inexpensive and durable. I also purchased a leather case that can attach to my belt so I don’t have to reach into my pockets with wet or bait covered hands. See links below.

Camillus Rage Carbonitride Titanium Folding Knife –

Leather Sheath for Folding Knife Sheath –

Disposable latex gloves (or fancier gloves like the one my wife is wearing in the picture above) – Some people, like my wife, prefer to wear gloves when handling the crab bait.

They come in with pink, blue, or red accents, see link below. My wife bought the pink gloves, but I just use my hands to insert bait, then rinse hands with water and wipe with rag.

Berkley Fishing Gloves –

5 gallon buckets with lid and rope – Storage for the crabs you catch. If you want to place crabs in sea water, then you’ll need a rope if you’re crabbing from a pier or steep shore. You’ll want to put the lid on during transport home to minimize smell. Check with your state’s regulatory department regarding transportation of crabs or fish. See links below for bucket we use.

Home Depot 5 Gallon Buckets –

Promar NE-100 Poly Crab Line, 100-Feet –

Light – Camping flashlight, lantern and work light if you’re fishing at dawn or dusk or at night. See links below to purchase. Check out my reviews on flashlight, lantern and work light, click here.

Duracell Durabeam Ultra LED Flashlight 500 Lumens –

LitezAll 2000 Lumen Camping Lantern –

Sanlinkee LED Rechargeable Work Light –

Tap water – I usually bring a gallon of tap water for washing hands.

Rags – For wiping hands after touching bait.

Bathrooms – Some crabbing sites don’t have bathrooms or the bathrooms present are really bad. If the bathrooms are bad, you may want to carry toilet paper and seat covers with you. If you prefer not to use public bathrooms or there are none, you may want to invest in a portable toilet. See links below for options that my family uses.

When we are doing a day trip, we usually go with the toilet seat cover or the Reliance Products Fold-to-Go Collapsible Portable Toilet because they take up less space in the SUV. We use the Hike Crew Advanced Portable Outdoor Camping and Travel Toilet when we go on camping trips.

Toilet Seat Covers Disposable –

Reliance Products Fold-to-Go Collapsible Portable Toilet –

Reliance Double Doodie Toilet Waste Bag 6 Pack –

Hike Crew Advanced Portable Outdoor Camping and Travel Toilet –

WolfWise Pop Up Privacy Tent –

6. Other items to pack for a day of crabbing

  • Snacks, drinks, water, paper plates and paper towels.
  • Beach towels and sand toys for the kids.
  • Baby wipes (we bring this everywhere since we have small kids)
  • Camping chairs.

You’ll want to get good camping chairs since you’re mostly sitting waiting to pull in your crab snares. Below are the chairs we use on the beach. They are sturdy and have a small cooler built into the arm rest.

Coleman Portable Camping Quad Chair –

If your crabbing spot is far from your car, you may need to bring a collapsible wagon for carrying your equipment and supplies to your crabbing spot. Here is a link to highly rated and affordable collapsible wagon:

Mac Sports CAMO Mac Wagon –

7. Fishing Permit, crabbing regulations, seasons, and areas.

I typically buy my annual fishing permit from Big 5 Sporting Goods store. I believe stores like Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods sell them too, call before you go.

Each state has different laws regarding minimum size requirements and bag limits, so check with your state’s regulatory department for more information. Also, each state has different crabbing seasons and locations where crabbing is allowed, so again check with your state’s regulatory department. If you plan to cook and eat crab you catch, you should first conduct your own research regarding crab consumption guidelines and advisories.

If you’d like more in depth information about crabbing, such as best places to go crabbing, best time in the day to go crabbing, and more, then visit my other blog: How to Go Crabbing

Hope you found this article “Surf crabbing with crab snares for beginners” helpful, happy crabbing!

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