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The answer to relieving seafood market sticker shock is crab traps. The last time I stood at a seafood counter, Dungeness crab was $25 per pound and a dozen blue crabs cost over $50. Meanwhile these delicious creatures scurried along the bottom of the ocean only a few miles from the seafood store. I realized that for the price of one family portion of my favorite crustaceans, I could buy a crabbing basket and keep the crabs flowing all summer. The key to my plan: finding the best crab traps available to fit my needs.
- Best Overall: Promar TR-55
- Best for Dungeness: SMI Heavy Duty Crab Trap
- Best for Blue Crabs: American Blue Claw
- Best Collapsible: Promar NE-111
- Best Budget: Offshore Angler Square Crab Trap
Best Overall: Promar TR-55
Why It Made The Cut
A crab pot that collapses like a crab trap, the Promar TR-55 is the best of both worlds.
- Weight: 6.9 pounds
- Product Dimensions: 38 x 22 x 1.5 inches
- Materials: Vinyl coated wire mesh
- Durable wire covered mesh
- Escape ring
- Bait box
The easiest way to catch crabs is to bait a crab pot and let it soak for a few hours. Retrieve the pot and it is full of crabs. Open the large hatch and dump the crabs into the best fishing cooler. Refill the removable bait cage and return the pot to the water. The Promar TR-55 is the best crab trap overall because it has all the advantages of a crab pot without the weight and bulk. The collapsable TR-55 folds flat when not in use. In the water, the TR-55 works the same as a full-size pot. Crabs climb into the trap through the entrance doors. Once the crab is inside, the door closes and the crab is trapped. Smaller crabs can climb out through the small escape ring. The TR-55 is designed for blue crabs, but Promar makes a similar trap for other crab species.
Best for Dungeness: SMI Heavy Duty Crab Trap
Why It Made The Cut
SMI Heavy Duty Crab Trap is a pro-level crab pot easy enough for anyone to use.
- Weight: 25 pounds
- Dimensions: 30 x 10 inches
- Materials: Stainless steel web and rubber coated bottom
- Full kit available
- Sturdy components
With sturdy stainless steel components and a rubber covered bottom, the SMI Heavy Duty Crab Trap is the best crab trap for Dungeness crab. Three entry doors with elevated ramps make it easy for crabs to crawl in but impossible for them to escape. The complete kit comes with a lead rope, buoy, bait box, crab gauge and harness. To easily sort the crabs, the SMI trap has a large opening in the top to separate keepers from throwbacks without dumping the crabs onto a sorting table. Rubber wrapped rebar adds weight to quickly sink the SMI Heavy Duty to the bottom.
Best for Blue Crabs: American Blue Claw ½ Crab Trap Kit
American Blue Claw
Why It Made The Cut
The American Blue Claw ½ Crab Trap Kit has the same catching design at only half the size of a traditional crab pot. Fill the basket with crabs without taking up too much space in a small boat.
- Kit includes: float, 15 feet of line, and crab pot
- Dimensions: 24 x 22 x 11 inches
- Materials: Rubber coated galvanized wire mesh
- Half the size of a traditional crab pot
- Central bait box
- Kit comes with rope and float
- Only 15 feet of line
The classic blue crab pot at half the size, the American Blue Claw ½ Crab Trap Kit is great for short soaks with several traps. Instead of one large pot deployed at one location, the half-size American Blue Claw allows me to drop two pots at different locations for better coverage. Crabs crawl into the funnel and can’t escape. A large door in the top makes it safe and easy to empty the pot. Small escape hatches allow short crabs to exit the trap, leaving more space for keepers. If you plan to drop off a couple traps, spend the day fishing or boating, and then return to retrieve your bounty, this is the best crab trap for blue crabs.
Best Collapsible: Promar NE-111
Why It Made The Cut
The Promar NE-11 makes crabbing easy and fun for the whole family.
- Weight: 7 ounces
- Product Dimensions: 18-inch top ring, 10-inch bottom ring
- Materials: Cotton mesh and stainless steel rings
- Easy to use
- Light and compact
- Not durable
Crabbing is great fun for the whole family, evident at events like the Annual Assault on Patcong Creek Crabbing tournament. The Promar NE-111 is the best collapsible crab trap for any type of crab. Costing just $20, each family member can work a trap to increase the catch and get everyone in on the fun. To fill the basket, attach a piece of bait in the cotton mesh net, drop it to the bottom, wait a few minutes, and retrieve the net. With any luck, there will be a hungry crab latched onto the bait. Flip the net upside down to dislodge the crab into a bucket, freshen the bait, and drop again. At the end of the day, rinse the crab traps with fresh water and store flat for the next trip.
Best Budget: Offshore Angler Square Crab Trap
Why It Made the Cut
Quick, effective, and deadly, a steel crab trap with drop doors catches crabs before they know what happened.
- Weight: 1 pound
- Dimensions: 10 ½ x 10 ½ x 10 ½ inches
- Materials: Heavy gauge steel wire
- Steel construction
- Lowest price
- Simple operation
- Crab line not included
Stepping up the crabbing game, Offshore Angler’s Square Crab Trap quickly and securely snares a crab. Attach a chunk of fish or chicken to the tie down in the bottom of the trap. Tie the four lead lines to the mainline. Drop the crab trap to the bottom and the doors open and lie flat. When a crab crawls into the trap to investigate the bait, pull the handline and the doors close tight. The crab is trapped and can’t escape until the lines are loosened. Working a half dozen of these inexpensive and effective traps, a group of family and friends can produce a crab feast.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Crab Trap
What could be more fun than joining friends and family for a day of crabbing? Whether you’re crabbing from shore, pier, or boat, the best crab trap makes crabbing more effective and more fun. First, you have to consider how you plan to catch crab. Are you going to spend the day working a small crab trap or leave a crab pot for hours then return to retrieve the crabs? Before buying the best crab trap, consider the species you will target and the size of the crab trap you need.
What type of crab are you targeting? Where are you crabbing? You’ll want to answer these questions before purchasing a crab trap. Some crab traps, like a drop net or cage, will catch almost all types of crab. But these types of traps require the crabber to sit patiently and wait for a crab to crawl into the trap. The crabber stays busy checking the trap, refreshing bait, and dropping it back to the bottom. Smart crabbers use multiple traps and bring friends along to help catch the crabs.
Crab pots, on the other hand, are larger and allow the crabber to drop the pot, leave it to soak, and return hours later to retrieve the crabs. These pots are designed for a specific species of crab. A pot for blue crabs is much different than a trap for Dungeness crab. Dungeness crabs live in a hard rocky bottom, so the pots are larger, heavier, and more rugged. Blue crabs like a sandy or muddy sea floor, so blue crab pots are lighter with smaller entry holes.
The only limits to the amount of crab you catch are the number of traps you have and your local bag limit. Unfortunately, pots take up a lot of storage space. But if you have plenty of space, a full-size crab pot catches the most crabs with the least work. Use multiple pots to cover the most area for the best chance of finding crabs.
The next best thing is a compact or collapsible pot. Several of the pots in this review fold flat for storage. These pots make storage easier, but they are heavier and less durable. Another option is a half-size or three-quarter-size crab pot, which is as effective as a full size pot with a limited soak time. If you are only going to leave the pot for a few hours, several smaller pots cover the same area and take up less space.
Crab traps are small and fold flat, making them the easiest to own. You can stack a dozen crab traps in a closet and carry them in a car trunk. Crab traps require the crabber to monitor the trap all day, catching one crab at a time. Since you can carry a half dozen traps under your arm, it’s easy to work multiple traps to increase the catch.
Crabs are one of the most prized ocean delicacies, and they are easy to catch with a quality trap. Once you choose the species of crab you will target, decide how you will catch the crab and pick a crab trap that fits your lifestyle. Then you are ready to head out on the water and harvest the bounty of the sea using the best crab traps for your area and trapping style.
How do you attract crabs?
Attracting crabs is a science and an art. Commercial crabbers use all manner of superstition and experience to draw crabs to their traps. For recreational crabbers, all it takes is some good bait. Some people try to use rotten chicken and while crabs may eat rotten chicken, working with stinking, putrid bait is disgusting. Handling rotten flesh brings along a long list of potential health problems. The best bait for crabs is fresh fish. The second best would be meat scraps. Chicken is popular because it is less expensive and the bones make it easy to secure to the trap. Treat the bait like you would treat meat you plan to eat: Keep it cold and dry.
How long do you leave a crab trap in the water?
Once the crab trap is baited and ready to go, you need to know how long to leave it in the water. The answer depends on the type of trap. If you are using a hand crab trap, you may only need to leave the trap for a few minutes before pulling it up to retrieve the crab. Part of the fun of hand trapping is predicting how long to leave the trap before checking it. A longer soak has a better chance attracting crab, but also risks the crab eating his fill and moving on.
A large crab pot allows a longer soak. You can leave a full-size pot for hours or overnight. Smaller pots limit the soak time to a few hours. Many anglers drop a crab pot on their way to the fishing grounds and return at the end of the day to add crab to a delicious Lowcountry boil.
How much does the best crab trap cost?
The crab traps in this review range from $10 to over $250. A small hand trap only costs ten bucks, allowing a crabber to purchase several traps to increase the catch. All you need is a crab trap, a ball of string, and a couple pounds of bait to fill a bucket with delicious crab.
On the other end of the price range, a large crab pot is more expensive. But, a crab pot is more convenient. Just leave the crab pot in the water for several hours and it does the crabbing for you. To survive salt water and the rough ocean bottom, a crab pot is constructed of heavy-duty, corrosion-resistant metal with rot-resistant plastic and rubber. A crab pot requires a longer, heavier crab line and large foam buoy to mark its location.
Crab traps may seem expensive, but they are a great deal when you consider the price of crab at the seafood market.
The best crab traps make the sport easier and more fun. I chose the Promar TR-55 because it combines all the features of a great crab pot: collapsible, compact, sturdy, and easy to use. However, the feature that put the TR-55 at the top of the list is the Promar name. Promar has produced all manner of crabbing and fishing accessories out of Gardena, California, since 2002. The company is inspired by commercial crabbers and anglers and has a reputation for producing gear that gives every possible advantage for the best catch.
How I Chose the Best Crab Traps
Crab traps, like mouse traps, are rarely reinvented. Choosing the a crab trap comes down to quality. I looked for quality components, the toughest construction, and easy operation. Wire mesh, heavy rebar, heavy-duty latches, and corrosion resistant materials keep a crab trap crabbing longer. Saltwater, sand, mud, and rock work together to tear apart a crab trap. The crab traps use stainless steel, rubber coated galvanized steel, rot-resistant bungees and UV-resistant plastics to combat the elements. Small features make a big difference in ease of use. I like a large door to easily remove the crab. Also, a large, easy-to-access bait cage makes the trap easier to maintain. The crab line, harness, and float are just as important as the trap. If you buy a crab trap kit, make sure the quality of the accessories match the quality of the trap. Any crab trap will catch crab, but the crab traps make crabbing more fun, easy, and effective.