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Crab fishing regulations

Updated July 19, 2017

Crab fishing is a popular activity all over the world. It is a large and profitable business. Like many other sports and recreational activities, there are rules and regulations for crab fishing. The following regulations, such as the size of crabs, the usage of pots, the crab fishing season and any special restrictions are all enforced worldwide. However, check with your local fish and game department for any changes.

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Permits and licenses

For many kinds of ocean fishing, including crabs, a saltwater recreational fishing license is required. The kind of license depends on the age of the fisherman, the type of vessel used (charter or commercial) and the number of people on the vessel at a given time.


Size regulations depend on what kind of crabs are being caught. For blue crabs, there is a 12 cm (5 inch) minimum from point to point. When fishing for stone crabs, the claws must be a minimum of 7 cm (2 3/4 inches) long. All other crabs have no size limitations.

Number of Crab Pots Allowed

Recreational vessels are allowed no more than two pots, or traps, at a time. Commercial vessels are required to have at least two pots, with no strict limitation on a maximum. No pot shall be left unattended in an area of open water for more than five consecutive days. There is no limitation on the number of crabs allowed to be caught on a given trip--as long as pot-usage requirements are met.

Time of Year

There is no closed season for using crab pots or any other method of catching crabs. However, a lot of commercial fisheries close between mid-September and early December, as this is usually the prime harvesting time for crabs.

Specific Restrictions

For blue crabs, females with an egg mass must be returned to the water immediately. For stone crabs, only crabs with two claws may have one removed, the larger one being kept. No claws can be removed from a female with an egg mass. No fisherman can keep a stone crab body other than for food--whether living or dead. In addition, all pots used for recreational purposes must be marked with yellow floats only.

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About the Author

Alex Oppenheimer has been writing Sport and Recreation related articles since 2001. He has previously written for publications such as The Miami Herald, INASECTV.com, Hurricanesports.com (University of Miami Athletics), Thesportsrooster.com (Florida High School Sports) and The Metropolitan Golf Association (NY). He holds a degree in Sport Administration from the University of Miami (FL).

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