Spending the day crabbing with your family can be made even richer by repurposing items you have on hand and rigging your own homemade crab traps. The basic concept of a crab trap is simple: a baited box is lowered to the seabed, at which point one or more of its sides collapse, allowing crab to scuttle inside. Pulling the line raises the door(s), trapping them inside.
You can improvise a trap out of any box that will stand up to water. A popular candidate is the humble milk crate. You’ll also need a weight, nylon cord, a few feet of mesh or chicken wire, and zip ties. Turn the crate on its side so the opening faces you. Zip-tie a sturdy weight (such as a length of galvanized pipe) to the “new bottom” of the crate so it lands on the seabed as it sits now. Affix your bait to the back wall (a punctured can of tuna works well). Be sure to make it secure, as the crabs will pull hard at it. Cover 2/3 of the open side with chicken wire, leaving the bottom third open; this will be where the crabs enter. Cut a second piece of wire the size of this opening, and using zip-ties, “hinge” it to the bottom of the crate so it drops down like a drawbridge.
Tie one end of the nylon cord to the hinged door, thread it back into the crate and out through the top. The door should easily shut when you pull on the rope. Trapping crab takes good timing and a bit of luck. But with several going at once, you and your family should be very busy!
Laws regulating crabbing vary from state to state; consult your state’s laws before setting any traps. Always follow the FDA’s guidelines for proper handling and preparation of live seafood.