Fancy catching crabs? Top crabbing and crab racing tips!

My children absolutely love going crabbing but until a few years ago I didn't have a clue what equipment we might need or how to go about it so after a crabbing adventure this weekend I thought I would give you my top tips on how to catch crabs and then hold a crab race.

crab eating bacon in bucket

The great thing about crabbing is unlike fishing you really don't seem to need any actual skills at all! Even a toddler can dangle a crab line in the water and sometimes the little critters are obliging enough to gang on so you can drop them into a bucket so the children can have a really good look at it.

This weekend I stayed at a cottage in Orford in Suffolk and after spotting people with crab lines and buckets on the Quay pestered my far more mature friends into letting me have a go. The cottage owners had a couple of crab lines we could use, a bucket and a net. My friends decided they could face the embarrassment of crabbing without any children in tow and so we set off for the Quay.

3 women on Quay at Orford in Suffolk

We spent a good hour crabbing, no-one seemed to think it was at all odd that four grown women might be getting excited about hauling small crustaceans from their watery home  By the way the water you can see is actually river not sea but it's separated from the sea only by a long natural spit and obviously the crabs love it.

We soon realised it was a great excuse to lounge around in the sunshine. We even caught enough crabs to have a decent race!

Now the idea of crab racing was new to me - we've always just returned our crabs to the sea without making them compete but it really was fun way to end the crabbing session and I would imagine with children the idea of a race would make it easier for them to agree to putting their precious new pinchy pets back into the water.

I had caught by far the smallest crabs - although I was delighted to have been the first to catch anything, and in fact caught two crabs at once. I didn't hold out much hope for their racing ability compared to the much larger and feisty looking specimen my friend had caught.

We had five crabs altogether - but which one won? Well in my current bid to produce the next Youtube video sensation and make a fortune when one goes viral I have in fact filmed the race. Come on, you know you want to watch it. It's less than a minute - humour me!

And in case you have been inspired and want to catch crabs yourself (and I don't mean the sort you get after a dodgy romantic encounter!) I have devised a simple guide.


1.  Crab line. These are easy to hold oblong plastic holders with strong weighted line wrapped round. They can be bought for less than £1 on eBay and may cost more at the seaside so go prepared. Some come with hooks, some with bait bags in which you stuff whatever you plan to lure your crabs with. We used hooks but bags are better for small children. You can use those little laundry  detergent bags and add them to your hooked line.

2. Bait. We use about half a rasher of raw smoked bacon on each line. You can keep using until either it drops off or a crafty crab snatches it. You can also use ham, chicken fish, and not even the good bits - crabs love fish heads and fat! You can buy "special" crab bait but bacon works just as well. We have even used chips but they get soggy and fall off quite quickly!

3. Bucket. A child's sandcastle bucket will do. Fill with water from whatever body of water you are crabbing near. Just to hold your catch for inspection and before the race. Keep it in the shade if possible and watch out for talented climbing crabs!

4. Net. Optional. We've never used one but this weekend I have to say it made it less likely that you lose crabs as you are hauling your line up - get a friend to hold the net underneath ready in case they realise what is happening and try to hurl themselves off the bait back into the sea.
preparing crab lines for crab fishing
5. Venue. Piers, Quays, rocks near the sea all great crabbing spots. I have seen people crabbing off the beach but it's much easier to dangle the line off the edge of something. Remember to stay safe - life jackets or at least arm bands are a good idea for little children and maybe reins or a wrist band lead if you are at all worried they might get over excited and fall in.

6. Handwipes and/or antibac gel for post crab-handling clean-ups and a towel and/or cushion not a bad idea, as the quay is almost certainly going to be grubby and hard. And don't forget sun cream, especially on the backs of necks as you will spend a lot of time looking down!

catching crabs -simple! Dangle baited crab lines in water until you feel a tug or two or you get bored. Try and leave it at least a few minutes! Gently wind line in and hope any crabs scoffing bait don't realise what is happening and hang on until you can get them into bucket!
Racing crabs -Find a race track - preferably one which leads into the sea. Ideal -the slopes where people wheel their boats in (which I'm sure has a proper name but for the life of me I can't remember it!) Otherwise head for the beach.

Don't make the crabs run too far - I have no idea about crab stamina but we did notice people who started way back were losing their crabs to waiting seagulls! And that's never a great way to end your day at the coast with wailing children who have just seen their new friend smashed and eaten in front of them! We were so soppy we hung around making sure our crabs were well submerged and the lurking gull did not eat them!

gull on river at Orford

If anyone has any further top crabbing tips please leave them in the comments section below - I'd love to hear your best bait, or about great crabbing locations around the UK. And for my own information any good rock pooling sites- we love doing that too!