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Blue Crabs – Chesapeake Bay & Its Tidal Tributaries

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Season

April 1 through December 15.

Time of Day Restrictions

Rivers, creeks and tributaries:

  • April and October through Dec. 15—one half hour after sunrise to sunset.
  • May through September—one half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Chesapeake Bay Mainstem:

  • April and October through Dec. 15—one half hour after sunrise to 5:00 p.m.
  • May through September—one half hour before sunrise to 5:00 p.m.
  • It is illegal to set or fish crabbing gear prior to or after the time restrictions.
  • Using properly registered crab pots on private property, dip nets or handlines is permitted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Day of Week

No recreational crabbing is allowed on Wednesdays except:

  • When using crab pots from private property;
  • When using handlines or dip nets;
  • During a week when a state or federal holiday falls on a Wednesday or Thursday.

Minimum Size Limits
(measured from tip to tip of spikes)

Male hard crab:

  • April 1 to July 14—5 inches
  • July 15 to December 15—5¼ inches

Male peeler crab:

  • April 1 to July 14—3¼ inches
  • July 15 to December15—3½ inches

Soft crab:

  • April 1 to December 15—3½ inches

It is Illegal for a Recreational Crabber:

  • To sell crabs.
  • To possess an egg-bearing (sponge) crab or any female hard or peeler crab.
  • To set or fish a trotline, collapsible trap or crab net ring within 100 feet of another individual’s set gear.
  • To fish crab gear which belongs to another person.
  • To harvest crabs while SCUBA diving.

Additional Crab Pot Rules

  • Crab pots must have 2 cull rings, one measuring at least 23⁄16 inches and one at least 25⁄16 inches located in the exterior side panel or the top panels of the pot.
  • Crab pots must have a turtle excluder device attached to each entrance or funnel in the lower chamber constructed of wire or plastic, rectangular in shape not larger than 1¾ inches high by 4¾ inches long

The Amount of Gear Allowed for Unlicensed and Licensed Recreational Crabbing

License Status

Handlines and Dip Nets

Crab Pots on Private Property

Trotline

Collapsible Traps and Net Rings

Seine

Eel Pots

Unlicensed

Unlimited

A maximum of 2 registered crab pots per property regardless of the number of owners or lessees.

These pots must be:

  • Marked with your DNRid
  • Set in front of private property within 100 yards of shore
  • Attached by a line to the property or marked by a buoy or pole and sign

Not Allowed

Not Allowed

Not Allowed

Not Allowed

Licensed

Unlimited

  • Up to 1200ft*
  • Must have floats of the same color, size, shape on each end
  • Floats must be marked with your DNRid
  • Up to 30 traps, rings or combination of both*
  • Must be marked with a buoy bearing your DNRid unless attached to a pier, wharf or boat
  • Traps must have a flat bottom measuring no more than 20 inches by 15 inches and have no more than four articulated sides
  • Net rings must have a diameter less than or equal to 30 inches
  • Mesh cannot be greater than ¼”
  • Cannot exceed 50′ in width and 5′ in height
  • Must be emptied from shore
  • Up to 10 eel pots for catching your own bait
  • Must be labeled with your DNRid and may not be set in a buoy-free channel

Daily Creel/Possession Limits

license

Daily Creel / Possession Limit

Male Hard Crabs

Male Peelers, Soft crabs or combination

Unlicensed Individual

  • From shore
  • From unlicensed boat
  • From waterfront crab pots

2 dozen

1 dozen

Licensed Individual

  • From shore
  • From unlicensed boat
  • From waterfront crab pots

1 bushel

2 dozen

Boat Limits

Unlicensed BOAT

With 2 or more unlicensed

4 dozen

1 dozen

With 1 licensee and any number of unlicensed individuals

1 bushel

2 dozen

With 2 or more licensees and any number of unlicensed individuals

2 bushels

2 dozen

Licensed BOAT

  • With 1 or more unlicensed
  • With 1 licensee
  • With owner and any number of unlicensed individuals

1 bushel

2 dozen

  • With 2 or more licensees with any number of unlicensed individuals
  • With a licensee who is not the owner and any number of unlicensed individuals

2 bushels

2 dozen

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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