It’s mostly agreed upon to check your crab traps, or pots, every 6 to 36 hours, depending on how soon you want your catch. Waiting any longer than 36 hours may lead to your crabs starving or someone stealing your catch. If you are using crab rings or collapsible traps, you should pull your traps every 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Longer vs Shorter
Looking for an answer, I scoured every crabbing and fishing forum I could find on the internet. While I did find a range of different opinions, the responses seemed equally split between 30 minutes to 8 hours, and 12 hours to 3 days.
Let’s compare the two. Pulling your trap sooner can lead to fewer chances of crabs escaping, it can give you a sense of where the crabs are biting more and biting less, and it lets you make sure your pots never run out of bait.
Pulling your trap every hour makes for a great relaxing day on the water. Some of my fondest childhood memories are spending hot summer days on the river. I would play in the water with my friends and family, and then have a freshly caught crab feast as the sun went down.
With its advantages also some disadvantages. Pulling traps more often doesn’t necessarily guarantee a larger or smaller catch. It does introduce, however, the irritating task of keeping crabs alive, especially on hot days. You will need a large cooler, plenty of ice, and linen, or any type of fabric.
On the other hand, pulling your trap later, rather than sooner, also has its advantages. More crabbers have seen a larger catch when pulling their traps less often. Some claim this is because more crabs accumulate in the trap after being left in the water longer, which attracts even more crabs to join in on the feast.
Pulling your traps every 1 to 3 days also makes for a faster crabbing trip. What would’ve been a full 9 hour day on the water turns into 2 hours total setting and pulling traps.
This may take away from the experience, and don’t get me wrong I love a long crabbing trip. The truth is everyone’s lives get busy from time to time, and some poor souls don’t have the time to spend all day checking traps. This makes a shorter trip an advantage in my book.
Pulling your traps less often also comes with its disadvantages. The most irritating one, in my opinion, is that the bait runs out. Running out of bait equals fewer crabs, and fewer crabs equal a smaller crab feast. This is why I personally recommend checking your traps every 12 to 48 hours if you can’t check any sooner.
Another disadvantage is crab thieves. Checking your pot sooner prevents the chance of someone coming along and stealing your catch. This is less likely with a private pier or beach, but still possible.
What about the Tides?
Believe it or not, crabs are lazy. They like to let the tides do the moving while they just go with the flow. (See what I did there?)
You, the recreational crabber, can use this to your advantage.
If you’re smart and patient, you can correlate pulling your trap based on the tide. You want to aim for pulling your traps right after Slack Tide.
In case you didn’t know, the slack tide is a nickname for the time around or right after low or high tide. I had to look it up the first time I heard it.
If you set your traps before and pull them right after slack tide, you should see a much larger catch. The reason being is that this time provides more movement of the chemical smell of your bait from the current, which attracts more crabs.
It’s a big debate on when and how often you should check your traps. It’s easy to overthink, and can easily affect your haul if you check it too often or not often enough.
Hmm… so how often should you check your crab traps?
Like I said before, everyone has his or her own opinion on the matter. My advice: if you’re new to crabbing and just want a straight answer, you can’t go wrong with 24 hours. With enough bait and a sturdy trap, you’ll be sure to catch some crabs.
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