Collect the appropriate crabbing equipment. Crabbers who use a crab pot tend to have a dip net (or scrap net) for scooping errant crabs, thick crabbing gloves, a crab pot, a culling stick (to help remove the crabs from the net), and a container for storing the caught crabs.
The crab pot is a large square trap that is made out of wire (typically some sort of chicken wire). There are entrances (called “throats”) where the crabs enter the trap to get the bait, which is constructed so they can’t access it. The crabs then get trapped in the pot and you draw the pot back up to the surface with your new bounty.
Depending on the area you’re in you ‘ll have to figure whether you need a lightweight pot or a heavier one. For example: in the Puget Sound area, most areas support lightweight crab pots just fine, but a few areas, because of tidal currents and strong wave action, require heavier pots. If you’re sport fishing, you typically don’t want to use the commercial crab pots which are typically 75-150 lbs. (the pots sportsmen use tend to be 10 to 20 lbs.
The culling stick helps to remove the crabs from the net or pot. You can make one yourself by cutting a 5 inch (12.7 cm) notch in a piece of wood.
For the storage container, it is good to use a wooden bushel basket, but you can also use a cooler to store them. Mostly you just want to make sure that you keep the crabs alive until it is time to eat them and storing them in the appropriate container with ice. Leave the ice in the bag in the container and put the crabs on top of it. This will make them easier to handle when the time comes to cook them.
Get the right bait. There are tons of different kinds of bait that professional and sport crabbers use. You’ll have to experiment to see what works best for you, but chicken necks are a popular one, because they are scrap meat and crabs do seem to love them.
You can use frozen fish, because it typically decomposes faster than fresh fish, which better attracts crabs.
While crabs will eat basically any uncooked meat, you could also try some of the types commercial crabbers swear by: eel (this is one of the best ones according to commercial crabbers, but the price as risen because it is a delicacy in Europe and Asia); bull lip (durable, inexpensive, and crabs seem to love it); Menhaden, a type of forage fish, is great frozen, but decomposes very quickly, so if you’re leaving the pots out for a while, you would want to use fresh Menhaden.
Be aware of restrictions in your area. Every area has different restrictions for how many crabs you can have, what kind of a license you need, the size limit for crabs, where you can crab and when you can crab. Go to your local marina and talk to the harbormaster, or your local department for Fish and Game.
There are certain types of crabs that you’ll be looking to catch and certain ones you’ll need to throw back if you get them in your crab pot. Again, this will be entirely dependent on your area. For example: if you’re crabbing on the East coast of the United States, you’ll probably be crabbing for Blue Claw Crabs. If you catch a green crab or a spider crab, you’ll need to release it, as those types of crabs aren’t edible.
There also tend to be laws in place protecting crabs with egg sacs, since these need to keep repopulating the crab population. If you catch a crab with an egg sac, make sure you release it.
Get rid of any dead crabs that you catch. You don’t know how long they’ve been dead, so you don’t want to eat them. Stick to keeping your crabs alive until it’s time to put them in the pot.