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How to Go Crabbing with a Line and Dip Net

Crabbing in Homosassa
Crabbing in Homosassa

This past weekend, my family had our annual vacation in Homosassa, Florida.  All of the kiddos were obsessed with going crabbing (or “crabbin’,'” in local speak), using a line and dip net off the docks at Riverside Resort.  We always find that “crabbing” (catching crabs) is a fun way for kids to pass time in between boating excursions.
This form of crabbing is the basic, old-school way to crab – it does not require any traps, it simply requires a string, some bait and a dip net. When you are crabbing off of central Florida’s West coast, your primary crab you will be targeting are blue crabs.  Using this method, there are no regulations on when you can keep your crabs, but our kids prefer to catch and release. If you prefer to keep your crab and cook it up for dinner, go for it!  Keep in mind, if a female crab has eggs, it is customary to throw her back.
Here is a simple “how to” guide that will show you four easy steps to go crabbing

1. Find a Spot

Usually, your best spots to go crabbing include around docks, piers and bridges with rocky bottom or grass. They do not like sandy bottom! There are plenty of good crabbing locations in Tampa Bay, around Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key.  Just sit yourself off a dock and go for it!

2. Gear Up

All you will need are a few items – a long string, bait and a dip net with a long handle.  You don’t need fishing line or any fancy string, just basic, medium weight string. You can also buy a “crabbing kit” that includes a weighted bait clip, line, a pair of tongs and a glove (to protect yourself from the crab’s claws when releasing).
For your dip net, you will want to make sure you get a long enough handle and a big enough “head” so you can scoop up big crabs.

3. Get Bait

This part is really easy…blue crabs are scavengers, so they aren’t very picky.  The most common (and cheapest) bait for crabbing is chicken.  People like chicken necks the best, but any part will do.  You can also use bait fish, mullet or even hot dogs!

4. Start Crabbin’!

The concept is, you tie your bait onto the string and then let your string hang down into the water along the bottom and wait for your crab to grab on (they usually don’t let go because they are greedy little crustaceans!)
Once you have a crab on your line, just use your dip net to scoop him up and bring him on the dock.  To remove him from your line, make sure you have your glove on and use your tongs to pull him off.
Good luck and happy crabbing!