Crab fishing in the UK

dungeness crab image by Mat Hayward from

Crabs are found in all seas and oceans around the world. In the UK the brown and spider crabs are most commonly eaten and the shore crab is easy to spot on a visit to the seaside. Catching crabs for pleasure is easy using a simple line and a piece of bait.

Crabbing is a popular activity among children and adults alike. Crab fishing is big business and thousands of tons are caught every year for sale to supermarkets and restaurants.


There are many different types of crabs found in UK waters, but the most popular for eating is the edible brown crab. It has a wide oval-shaped shell and is found either under rocks on the shoreline or buried with the top of its shell just visible. The shore crab is the most common to be found. It is mottled brown in colour and can range in size from hardly visible to the size of a human hand. Another common variety is the hairy crab with hairs all over its legs and shell. It is found under rocks and hiding in holes on rocky shorelines. Large spider crabs are commonly found offshore and are caught by commercial fisherman.

Commercial crab fishing

The British crab market is a multimillion pound industry. From 2006 to 2011, reported landings were around 9,000 tonnes for edible crab (9 million pound value). Crab fishing in the UK dates back to the 12th century when fishermen used nets to catch them. Today crab pots or creels lined with bait are used. The "Cornish Inkwell" pot is popular with the bigger fishing boats working offshore while the Scottish "D" creel is more popular inshore. The pots are floated on the water and left for 24 hours to allow the crabs to crawl inside. Small boats may launch around 20 pots while the bigger commercial vessels could float around 2,000 and may not collect them in for several days. The catch is sold at fish markets to restaurants, supermarkets and small shops and stalls.


Crabbing is a popular summer pastime across the UK Using a simple line and some bait, such as bacon, crabs can be easily caught. Casting a line next to a seawall or quay is a good place to catch crabs. A bucket of water is used to put the crabs into. Crab lines are sold at many beach shops.

Best places to fish for crab

Crabs are found around the whole of the British coastline on the shore and out to sea. Cromer in Norfolk is one of Britain's most famous crabbing destinations. The famous Cromer Crab is a national delicacy. The peeler crab can be found along the North Sea coast, under rocks and in rock pools, between April and September. Other famous hot spots include Mudeford Quay and the Cobb at Lyme Regis in Dorset, Wembury Bay in Devon and Caswell Bay on the Gower Peninsula in Wales.

Crabbing competitions

Crabbing competitions are popular in the summer months when crabs are in season. One of the most famous competitions is the British Open Crabbing Championships in Suffolk held annually. Using a single line, contestants have 90 minutes to land as many crabs as possible using the bait of their choice. The person who catches the heaviest crab wins.