Do Crab Snares Work On Blue Crabs?

If you intend to go crabbing during the “on” season, it can be great fun and is an activity with which the whole family can join. Check the local regulations on whether a license is required and what the catch limits are, as you don’t want a big fine, or even worse, spend some time locked up because you innocently broke the law!

Despite their fast reaction speed and their smaller legs than other species, crab snares work on blue crabs. The snares can be used at the end of a fishing pole or to a line thrown out as far as possible to end up on the soft sandy surface to catch the available crabs.

The question is not whether it is possible to catch blue crabs with a crab snare but whether it is legal. Some states have definitive legislation making crab snares legal or illegal, while others have very loose regulations which can be read either way.

Crab Snares (Known As Loop Traps) Do Work On Blue Crabs

Crab snares are not used often on the Gulf and Atlantic Coast, and there are generally no regulations regarding their use or otherwise.

The Blue Crabs are much smaller than other types (e.g., the Dungeness Crabs), seemingly making snares less effective.

However, while this may be the official view, blue crabs have smaller claws and are much quicker than other crabs; crab snares can catch them successfully.

Most anglers report catching more than one crab caught with each throw, and this works particularly well because the crabs start to fight over the bait, and when they do, their legs and claws get caught in the crab snares loops.

What Is A Crab Snare, And How Does It Catch The Crab?

A crab snare is a trap that works by tangling up the crab in such a way that it can’t escape.

It consists of a small bait box with loops of monofilament (or Power Pro Super braided fishing line) attached.

There can be between  4 to 8 loops connected to the bait box, and when the crab goes in and attempts to feed on the bait, its legs get tangled within the loops. The loops act like a noose and reduce in size when the crab’s legs get caught and struggle.

The crab cannot move and escape with the loops tightening and acting like nooses.

The snares are attached to a fishing line (which is colored so should not be visible) and are cast out, preferably onto a sandy bottom where the best results will be achieved.

The cast is done the same way as a normal cast; however, the crab snare is significantly heavier and weighs between 2 and 3 pounds.

As a result, it creates more drag under the water. When the cast has been done and the snare has sunk to the bottom, wind back enough line to ensure that the slack is taken up so you can feel when the crab starts to nibble.

Once the angler feels the crab nibbling, they should wait for a little while in the hope that the crab will be caught up.

The angler should pull in the line; this movement takes some practice to get right, which will cause the loops (nooses) to tighten and hopefully catch the crab.

Is It Legal To Use A Crab Snare To Catch Blue Crabs?

Using illegal methods to catch crabs has a maximum penalty of $1,000 for the first offense.

States Where It Is Definitely Illegal To Use Crab Snares

Some states have been forthright in their views of Crab Snares, including those where they are illegal.

  • Florida states it is illegal to use crab snares.
  • Texas states that it is not one of the approved methods.
  • Maryland

States Where It Is Definitely legal To Use Crab Snares

Some states on the west coast allow catching crabs with crab snares, including.

  • Washington State
  • California
  • Oregon

The issue with these states is that blue crabs do not run in them.

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What About The Other States?

The legislation regarding crab fishing generally contains the following exclusions.

It is Illegal for a Recreational Crabber:

  • To sell crabs.
  • To possess an egg-bearing crab (sponge) or from any female hard or peeler crab.
  • No one is permitted to fish using a trotline, collapsible trap, or crab net ring at a distance of fewer than 100 feet of someone else’s equipment.
  • To take out any crabs caught in another person’s fish crab.
  • To catch crabs while the person is SCUBA diving.
  • A crab trap system that automatically closes without the operator using manual force is illegal.

The gear that is listed in the regulations includes

  • Crab pots on private property.
  • Trotline.
  • Collapsible traps.
  • Net rings.
  • Seine.
  • Eel pots.

This list does not include crab snares, which technically makes their use illegal.

In addition, the regulations say that the traps must be designed so that a crab can move across it and only becomes caught when the user pulls a line up to retrieve the trap. The intent is that the user pulling in the trap must be the action that catches the crab (such as closing the sides of a trap).

Spearfishing for crabs is illegal because the spear(or arrow) would pierce(damage) the shell.

From the above, there are two views as to whether using crab snares to catch crabs is legal or not.

The Argument That It Is Legal

As some states permit crabs to be caught with handheld lines, proponents state that it is legal to catch blue crab with crab snares.

Snaring the crab (snagging) by the leg is a manual action and would only damage the crab by losing a leg (if the snare wire or filament cuts into the leg).

The Argument That It Is Illegal

The argument that a crab snare is illegal uses the following statements in the regulations.

It Is Not Mentioned As An Approved Gear

Point eight from the regulations above states that it is illegal “To use gear other than the gear listed in the table below.”

Because crab snares are not specifically named as legal methods, they are therefore illegal.

It Is Not Fully Manual

The second argument is that the trap must be manually activated, and the crab must be able to move over it without getting caught. 

It is only partially true with crab snares, as while it does take someone pulling on the line to tighten the nooses, crabs can get caught and tangled up in them before the nooses are pulled closed.


It is possible to use crab snares to catch blue crabs, and it seems that crabbers have succeeded. The big question is if it is legal to use crab snares to catch crabs. While some states have made definitive provisions in their legislation, others have only addressed the question indirectly, without clarity.

Should you intend to use a crab snare and are in one of the states which have left the legality ambiguous. You should contact the local department of nature and fisheries and clarify the position.