Dungeness crabs and a sun fish in the trap.

Looks like someone didn’t time their crab fishing accordinly, otherwise this trap would have been full!

When is the best time to catch crabs?


I often hear people give advice on the peak time for crab fishing. Some say it’s at a full moon in the middle of the night. Some say it’s when the tide is coming in, going out or at slack tide. Others with tell you it’s between certain months.


Here are the low-downs on when it’s best to go crab fishing and why:

  • There are a lot of crabs in the lower mainland but you won’t catch any of them if they can’t find your trap. The ocean is a big place; crab fishing at the wrong time means it’s harder for a crab to find your trap than for you to find a needle in a haystack the size of Mt. Everest.
  • The only reason why crabs will come into your trap is because they smell your delightful bait.

It’s your job as a crabber to make sure that these crustaceans can find your trap in all this sea of water. How do you do that? you ask… Set your trap with great smelling bait at a time that the crabs are on the move and when the tide won’t wash away the bait scent.

The first step is pretty easy because crabs are usually always on the move. They go out to sea when the tide is going out and they come back in when the tide is coming back in. In between the two tides (when the tides are changing) it’s called slack tide; crabs can take a break from their leisurely travels until it starts back up again.

Slack tide, means that there is no exchange of water and your bait scent will cover a wide area, making it easy for crab to find your trap. At the tail end of a tide exchange, during slack tide and at the beginning of the new tide is the best time to go crabbing.


Ideally you want you want to fish in the slack tide right before the tide is coming in. The crabs are at their hungriest and will be seeking out food on their way back in.


Depending on the type of crab you’re fishing for, there are certain months that are better than others. In the late fall and into February is when you will have the most success catching Dungeness crab on the west coast.


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