Shrimp, Crab, Shellfish & Bait Minnows
A Georgia fishing license is required to recreationally fish for any seafood, whether for personal consumption or bait. It is illegal to sell any seafood or bait harvested with a recreational license!
It is unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of, for human consumption, any shrimp taken as bait.
Shrimp “Baiting” Prohibited
It is unlawful to place, deposit, distribute, or scatter any bait of any kind in, on, or over any waters so as to lure, attract, or entice shrimp toward the bait or to cause shrimp to congregate in the area where bait is placed. It is illegal to knowingly fish for shrimp in baited waters.
Unless otherwise designated, there is no closed season for the harvest of bait shrimp, regardless of the approved gear used. The season for the recreational harvest of food shrimp is the same as that established for commercial shrimping. The Commissioner of DNR may open the season from May 15 through the end of February; however, it is generally opened mid-June through mid-January. The opening and closing of the food shrimping season is announced via coastal media outlets, posted at marinas, and at www.CoastalGADNR.org.
Trawl Nets (Sport Bait Shrimping)
Gear: Power-drawn trawl nets 10 feet or smaller may be used in saltwaters to harvest shrimp for bait. Information on the specific net dimensions for bait trawls is available from DNR offices in Brunswick.
Areas: Unless designated otherwise, a 10-foot sport bait trawl may be used at any season to take shrimp only in rivers and creeks or portions thereof that have been opened to bait shrimping by DNR. Charts of established “Bait Zones” are also available at GeorgiaOutdoorMap.com.
Hours: Trawling for bait shrimp is legal only between the hours of ½ hour before official sunrise to ½ hour after official sunset.
Harvest Limit: A sport bait shrimper may not possess at any time more than two (2) quarts of shrimp, no more than ½ pint of which may be dead, and may not take more than four (4) quarts of shrimp within a 24-hour period. When two or more persons occupy the same boat, there may be no more than four (4) quarts of shrimp on board the boat at any time; no more than one pint of which may be dead, and no more than eight (8) quarts of shrimp may be taken within a 24-hour period.
Commercial licenses are required to use trawl nets (power-drawn or hand-retrieved) to harvest shrimp for food. Trawling for food shrimp may only be conducted in the waters seaward of the sound boundary when those waters are open to the harvest of food shrimp.
Gear and Areas: Seines equal to or smaller than 12 feet long, with a maximum depth of four feet, and a maximum stretch mesh of one (1) inch may be used throughout Georgia’s saltwaters. The use of seines over 12 feet long in any inlet or tidal slough is prohibited. Seines less than 100 feet long and with a minimum stretch mesh of 1 1⁄4 inches may be used on sand beaches of any barrier island in Georgia. Seines from 100 to 300 feet long and with a minimum mesh size of 2 1⁄2 inches may be used only on the oceanfront sides of beaches. Seines over 300 feet long are also prohibited. It is unlawful to use any seine in saltwaters such that it blocks more than 1⁄2 of the entrance of any tidal river, creek, slough, or inlet to the ocean.
Hours: Unless otherwise designated, seines may be used any time of day during the open season for bait shrimp and food shrimp.
Harvest Limits: Recreational seiners collecting bait shrimp are limited to two quarts per person at any time and no more than four quarts per person per day, or a maximum of four quarts per group at any time or eight quarts per day. No one person taking food shrimp solely by means of a seine, whether such person is acting alone or in a group of persons, may possess more than 24 quarts of shrimp with heads on or 15 quarts of tails taken by such seine in any 24-hour period. If any person or group of persons occupying the same boat is in possession of a cast net and a seine, such person or persons shall be subject to the limits imposed for shrimp taken by cast net.
Gear: A cast net is a cone shaped net with a weighted circumference thrown and retrieved by hand without mechanical assistance. Two types of cast nets are defined: a “Bait shrimp cast net” having a minimum bar mesh of 3⁄8 inch and a “Food shrimp cast net” having a minimum bar mesh of 5⁄8 inch. Bait shrimp cast nets cannot be used to take shrimp for personal consumption; however, food shrimp cast nets may be used to take bait. There are no length restrictions on either net and cast nets can be modified with the addition of duct tape or other materials to enhance performance.
Areas and Hours: During the open season and unless designated otherwise, cast nets may be used to harvest bait or food shrimp at any time of day in all of Georgia’s saltwaters.
Harvest Limits: Recreational cast netters collecting bait shrimp are limited to two quarts per person at any time, provided that person may take a maximum of four quarts of bait shrimp per day. When two or more persons occupy the same boat, there may be no more than four quarts of bait onboard the boat at any time, and the persons occupying the boat may take no more than eight quarts of bait shrimp per day. Bait shrimp may be alive or dead when caught with a cast. No person taking food shrimp with a cast net may possess more than 48 quarts of heads-on shrimp or 30 quarts of shrimp tails in any day. When one or more persons occupy the same boat, there may be no more than 48 quarts of heads-on shrimp or 30 quarts of shrimp tails on board at any time. No vessel owner shall allow the vessel to be used to take more than the allowable catch limits in any day.
Georgia does not regulate the harvest of stone crab; however, the harvest of the whole crab is discouraged. It is recommended that only one claw measuring at least 2 3⁄4 inches from the elbow to the tip of the lower, immovable finger be removed. A properly removed claw should not have meat from the body attached.
Areas, Seasons, Hours
Unless otherwise designated, the saltwaters of Georgia are open year-round for recreational crabbing at any time of the day.
Harmful toxins called PCBs are stored in the hepatopancreas (“the green gland” also known as the mustard, tomalley, or liver) found in the body section of blue crabs.
Recent studies have shown that crabs in the Middle Turtle River and Purvis and Gibson Creeks contain high levels of PCBs. While the crab meat may still be eaten in recommended amounts, the hepatopancreas should not be eaten because of the high PCB levels.
If crabs are cooked whole, the juice should not be consumed. Because PCBs are transferred to cooking liquid, crab cooking liquid should also be discarded.
Cleaning crabs before you cook them (“backing” the crabs and rinsing out the guts and the gills) reduces the risk of consuming PCBs.
Traps: Up to six standard size crab traps (2 x 2 feet or smaller) may be used recreationally. Two unobstructed escapement rings (2 3⁄8 inch inside diameter) must be installed on an outside vertical wall. Each trap must be marked with a fluorescent green or lime green float bearing the owner's name and address in one-inch letters. Traps should be sufficiently weighted to prevent loss in strong tidal currents. It is unlawful to place or set crab traps in the channel of any stream with a lawfully established system of waterway markers. Disposal of crab traps in public waters is a violation of State and Federal laws.
Other Gear: Subject to other restrictions outlined in these regulations, legal crabs may be taken with other legal fishing gear such as seines, cast nets, hand-lines, and lift rings.
Size and Harvest Limits
It is unlawful to take or possess any crab less than 5 inches from spike to spike across the back (other than a “peeler” or a “mature adult female” crab). Peelers must measure at least 3 inches from spike to spike across the back. No sponge (egg-bearing) crabs are allowed. Recreational crabbers may take no more than one bushel of crabs during any 24-hour period. No more than two bushels may be taken recreationally or possessed during a 24-hour period on a boat with more than one person aboard.
Terrapins in Crab Traps: Recent studies have investigated the effectiveness of excluder devices for preventing the capture of diamond-back terrapins in commercial-style crab traps. Terrapins that enter crab traps cannot escape and often drown. To learn how to build your own terrapin excluder call 912-264-7355.
Season and Hours
Saltwaters may be opened for taking shellfish between January 1 and December 31. Prior to harvesting any shellfish, check with the DNR-Coastal Resources Division (www.CoastalGADNR.org) for any seasonal closures that may be in effect during the calendar year. Shellfish must be harvested between the hours of ½ hour before official sunrise and ½ hour after official sunset.
Shellfish may only be taken with handheld implements.
Updated charts of approved public shellfish picking areas can be obtained from the Coastal Resources Division or at CoastalGaDNR.org/ApprovedRecHarvestAreas. It is illegal to harvest shellfish except in areas designated for such purpose.
Size and Harvest Limits
Oysters must measure no less than three inches from hinge to mouth, unless the oyster cannot be removed from a legal-sized oyster without destroying it. For clams, the maximum depth from one shell half to the other must be at least ¾ inch thick. Recreational quantity limits are up to two bushels of oysters and one bushel of clams per person per day, with a maximum limit of six bushels of oysters and one bushel of clams per boat per day.
Recreational harvest of whelk is limited to 1 bushel/person. There is no minimum size, closed season or closed area. A recreational fishing license is required, including hand harvest from the beach.
Season, Hours and Areas
Bait minnows may be harvested year-round.
No more than two traps may be used recreationally, except that a licensed saltwater fishing guide may use a maximum of four traps. A minnow trap must be less than 24 inches in length, 18 inches in width, or 9 inches in height for a rectangular trap; or, 30 inches in circumference for cylindrical traps. The throat opening must be no larger than 1 inch, and bar mesh must not be smaller than ¼ inch (square or diameter). Each trap must have attached a tag or float bearing the name and address of the person using the trap. Subject to specific gear design criteria, sizes, time of day, and area restrictions outlined in these regulations, bait minnows may also be taken recreationally year-round in seines and cast nets.
No individual recreationally harvesting bait minnows may possess more than two quarts of bait minnows at any given time. A licensed saltwater fishing guide may possess not more than 10 quarts at any given time.