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Blue Crabs—Chesapeake Bay

Daily Creel/Possession Limits


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

Daily Catch and Possession Boat Limits for April 1–December 15, 2023

Unlicensed Boat

With 1 unlicensed individual

2 dozen male crabs

With 2 or more unlicensed individuals

4 dozen male crabs

With 1 or more licensees and any number of unlicensed individuals

1 bushel of male crabs

Licensed Boat

With any number of licensed or unlicensed individuals

1 bushel of male crabs

Crabbing License/Registration

See page 13.


April 1–Dec. 15.

Time of Day

Setting gear and catching crabs is allowed during the following time periods:

Rivers, creeks and tributaries:

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

Chesapeake Bay mainstem:

  • April and Oct. through Dec. 15—one half hour after sunrise to 5 p.m.
  • May through Sept.—one half hour before sunrise to 5 p.m.

Using handlines and dip nets is permitted 24 hours a day, as well as annually registered crab pots on private property.

Day of Week Restrictions

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–July 14—5 inches.
  • July 15–Dec. 15—5¼ inches.

Male peeler crab:

  • April 1–July 14—3¼ inches.
  • July 15–Dec. 15—3½ inches.

Soft crab:

  • April 1–Dec. 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.
  • To use gear other than the gear listed in the table below.

Additional Crab Pot Rules

  • Crab pots must have two 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 reduction 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.
  • Annual registration required.

The Amount of Gear Allowed for Unlicensed and Licensed Recreational Crabbing

License Status

Handlines and Dip Nets

Crab Pots on Private Property


Collapsible Traps
and Net Rings


Eel Pots



A maximum of 2 annually 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
  • Registered annually
  • Equipped with a turtle reduction device

Not Allowed

Not Allowed

Not Allowed

Not Allowed



  • Up to 1200 ft*
  • 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