Tag Archives: blue crabs

Crabbing on the Gulf Coast

How does eating fresh blue crabs dipped in butter sound? Now just imagine if you caught those blue crabs yourself! If you have not tried crabbing before, you are missing out. Add some fun to your next trip and visit Surfside, TX, or anywhere coastal in the Gulf Coast area and give crabbing a try. We visited Surfside for a few weeks we’re hooked!

Crabbing is inexpensive and easy to do

Crabbing is a whole lot of fun for the entire family and can be done with almost no equipment at all.  You will need a few things, but a boat isn’t one of them. And if you’re looking for places to go, places like Crabbing Pier in Surfside is a perfect place to start.

Crabbing Pier in Surfside, TX is a great place to try your hand at crabbing

A fishing license is needed for crabbing in Texas

Before you begin, you will need to obtain a valid fishing license with a saltwater endorsement to legally harvest crab in Texas.  They have made the process very easy and you can take care of it online. If you prefer, you can also stop by the many locations that offer licenses.

No daily limits on catching Blue crabs

No worries about hitting a daily limit, crab all day! There are, however, size limits and harvesting any females carrying eggs is illegal. When carrying eggs, females are termed “sponge” or “berry” crabs and are illegal to be retained. 

There is no daily bag or possession limit for blue crabs and stone crabs, but they each must meet a minimum criteria to be taken. The legal size at which a blue crab may be harvested is when it measures 5 inches across the widest point of its body, from tip to tip of its spines.

Texas Outdoor Digest

Identifying male and female blue crabs

There are two ways to determine whether you have a male or female blue crab. First, look at their claws. Males have blue tips and females have red tips.

The sex of a blue crab is also identified by the abdominal flap or “apron”. In males, it is shaped like an inverted T and females have a broader apron, an appearance more like a pyramid.

Blue crabs aren’t picky when it comes to bait

Crabs are not picky and can be caught on cut fish, shrimp, squid, and any other type of bait you might use for other ocean game. But did you know the most common bait for crab is chicken? You can go to the grocery store and buy chicken drumsticks, but the cheapest way to go is stop off at any of the bait shops and buy a pack of chicken necks. These will run you anywhere between a $1-3 for 3-6 necks.  

Get started with a ball of string, a net and a bucket

All you need is a ball of string, a hand net  and a piece of chicken and you have all you need to start catching blue crab. Tie your chicken to the line and toss it out from the bank or pier.  You’ll know a crab is on your line because the crab will start to drag the bait back deeper into the water which will tighten the string. Once you see this, slowly retrieve the line (the crab will not let go because he wants the yummy bait) until you see it and then use a net to scoop it up and place it in a bucket.  

Hoop nets

Hoop nets for crabbing

These nets are called umbrella nets or hoop nets and can be purchased at most bait shops and even the local Wal-Mart for about $4.00 each. The umbrella or hoop net has two metal rings attached by string netting. The larger top hoop is attached to a pull line, and when baited and dropped to the bottom, the device drops flat. This allows the crabs to walk right up to your bait and when you feel them or see the line move you simply lift on the pull line and scoop up the crab. Even if you can’t see them or haven’t seen your string move still pull the traps up to check them about once every 15-30 minutes. 

Crab pots and traps

Crabbing Pot

A crab trap, is a rectangular device typically made of chicken wire or other thin metal that can be baited and left to sit. You can purchase these crab traps from Amazon or you can also find them at the local Buc-ees. The traps have inverted funnels on its sides that allow crabs to enter but makes it difficult to for them to escape. NOTE: You can only use 6 traps at a time for recreational purposes.

Crab traps must be marked with your name and address and must be marked with a white buoy featuring a contrasting stripe and measuring at least 6 inches high, 6 inches long and 6 inches wide. 

Storing crabs before cooking

Blue Crabs Gulf Coast
Blue Crabs

Once you’ve caught a whole mess of crabs, you should either keep them moist (not wet) and cool. Read How to Buy and Store Crabs Like a Pro for options. If you put them in a bucket with ice, have a way for the melted water to drain. Be sure to cook them as soon as possible and throw away any crabs that have died before you cook them. 

Cook crabs the easy way

If you are looking for a fast and easy way to cook the crabs, try our recipe for Blue Crabs in an Instant Pot.

Crabbing will provide you, your family and your friends an excellent opportunity to recreate while enjoying a memorable outdoor experience and is also rewarding when your efforts take shape as you sit down at the dinner table. 

Blue Crabs in an Instant Pot

You don’t need to spend a ton of time and lots of big bulky equipment in order to cook blue crabs. Grab your Instant Pot and get ready for the quickest and easiest way to cook blue crabs.

The best way to get blue crabs is to catch them

Russ setting his pot for crabbing

Guarantee the freshest crabs by catching them yourself! Read our Crabbing on the Gulf Coast post to find out how. But if that is not an option, check your local seafood section at the grocery or order online.

Use live blue crabs

According to Science Focus, blue crabs have a harmful bacteria that multiplies and releases toxins very quickly as soon as the crab dies. Cooking does not always eliminate the toxin so it is recommended to boil or steam live crabs.

The most important thing about cooking blue crab to note is that you cannot cook crabs that are dead; as soon as they die they start to rot and become toxic.

Cameron’s Seafood
Blue Crabs
Blue Crabs

TIP: Placing the crabs on ice for a short time before cooking slows them down and makes them easier to handle.

Prepping the pot for the crabs

For this recipe, we used our 6 qt Instant Pot. Place the trivet on the bottom of the pot and pour in one can of your preferred beer. Then add about a half a cup of vinegar (this helps the meat come out of the shell easier). Cut up an onion and a lemon into large chunks and toss in the pot.

Add the crabs and lots of Old Bay Seasoning

Preferably with tongs, grab the crabs and place them in the pot. As you place each one in the pot, liberally sprinkle Old Bay Seasoning on the crab. For this size Instant Pot, we can easily fit 8 crabs.

Place the cover on your InstantPot and set it on manual pressure for 5 minutes. When it is finished, do a quick release of the pressure.

Properly cooked crabs will have a bright red shell

Remove the cover of your Instant Pot and the crabs are ready for you to enjoy! A properly cooked crab will have its shell turn from the green/blue colors to a bright orange/red hue.

Cooked Blue Crabs

Not sure how to extract all that delicious crab meat? Watch this video with Chef Mark Smolen:

Blue Crabs Gulf Coast

Instant Pot Blue Crabs

The quickest and easiest way to enjoy blue crabs!
Course Appetizer, Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine seafood
Servings 2 people


  • Instant Pot


  • 1 can any type of beer
  • 1 onion quartered
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • 1 lemon quartered
  • cup Old Bay Seasoning
  • 8 live blue crabs

Garlic Butter for dipping

  • 1 stick butter melted
  • 6 cloves garlic


  • Place trivet in Instant Pot and pour beer and vinegar into pot.
  • Cut onion and lemon into quarters and place in pot
  • Place crabs into pot one at a time, covering each crab with a generous amount of Old Bay Seasoning
  • Place cover on Instant Pot and set Manual for 5 minutes
  • Once the cycle is complete, use quick release method to vent steam.
  • After steam has stopped, open cover and remove crabs.

Preparation for garlic butter

  • Place stick of butter and peeled garlic bulbs into sauce pan.
  • Cook on medium-low heat for 7-10 minutes. Keep warm until ready to use with crab meat.
Keyword Easy, Instant Pot