How to Set Up Your First Crab Pot

Adventures, How-To

Back in November, J took me crabbing for the first time ever. My favorite TV show is Deadliest Catch. I don’t have cable so I’m not up to date at all on the episodes, but I loved watching it while doing homework in law school. Sometimes when I’m working from home I’ll still turn on Netflix re-runs for background noise. So when he asked if I’d want to learn how to crab fish, I was stoked!
I caught that little crab during our first crabbing trip together. I had to send him back to the water because he was too small to keep, but it was neat to see one up close and personal like that. On that trip, a friend let him borrow their crab pots.
How to Set Up Your First Crab pot
This year, J made sure I got a year long fishing license so that we could go any time without having to make a pit stop at a store to buy a one day pass. He also suggested I buy my own pot so that we could each have one (his friends wouldn’t let us borrow their forever… rude.) On Fourth of July weekend his family would be at their Island so my shopping list included “everything I need to set up my own crab pot.”

My goal was to impress J and have my whole pot set up before I got to the Island. He and his family got there several days before I did because I didn’t have the vacation days to use. That gave me the HOURS I needed on google, searching for guides on how to set up a crab pot for the first time. I wanted to share what I found with you guys! I did find a very clear explanation of setting up a crab pot, but without pictures. So I tried to include a few here.
First crab pot ever
Most of the items can be purchased on Amazon. I am a fantastic procrastinator, so by the time I figured out what I would need and actually got around to buying it, I had to go to a brick and mortar store. Almost everything I bought was found at Big5 Sporting Goods, except the rope, which I bought at Bass Pro Shops. Big5 sold me some rope, but it was not the right kind. Returning the rope I didn’t need was super easy. In fact, my experience in both stores was fantastic, which is saying something because I felt 85% helpless throughout most of my shopping experiences.

Here is what you will need for your first crab pot:

1) A Crab Pot – you’ll need to look into whether you want a square one or a round one.
2) Zip Ties – if you buy a collapsible pot for easy storage (more on this later)
3) A Bait Cage
4) Leaded, Weighted Rope
5) A Buoy – also look up what kind you need. In WA, it’s a red and white buoy and the yellow ones are for shrimp.
6) Optional: A Pot Harness – this will make tying and pulling up your pot a lot easier. I did not buy one of these.
7) Bait

There are some specific things to know or remember about a few items on this list.

The Crab Pot

First Crab Pot
The pot I purchased was made by Danielson. I paid about $50 for it. As you can see, you can save some money (50% off when I looked) by buying online. The store I went to didn’t have any in stock so they gave me the display. This meant that it was already popped up. If you buy one at a store or online, it will likely come collapsed and you’ll need to pop it up yourself.

There will be a section tied with a rope or yarn looking fabric. DO NOT CUT THAT OFF! It’s legally required just in case your crab pot gets lost at sea. The material will disintegrate after a period of time. This way, any crabbies that find their way into your lost pot will be able to escape.

While I was googling, I discovered this forum with many tips on setting up the Danielson (brand) crab pot. I did not register or comment on anything myself (again, I felt helpless and awkward), but that forum was great for context.

Zip Ties & The Bait Cage

I followed the suggestions I read in that thread and zip tied the corners together. Apparently there’s a risk of the pot collapsing when you pull it up, if you pull on the wrong angle. I didn’t want to take that chance. So I followed directions. Make sure to leave one side zip-tie-free. Otherwise you won’t be able to get the crabs out when you pull up the pot!
crab pot
You’ll also want to zip tie in the bait cage. Just make sure that you zip tie it with the opening of the bait cage, facing the side that you didn’t zip tie. Otherwise you’ll have a really awkward time placing and removing the bait.

And trust me, you do not want to spend more time than necessary touching crab bait. Gross.

The Right Rope

The first rope I bought was wrong. I had a feeling it might be, because the sales guy said, “Well, this rope has a picture of a boat on it, so it could be right!” I sent this photo to J and his mermaid cousins, and his immediate reply was that the rope was wrong.
My First Crab Pot
The only place I knew to find it was Bass Pro Shops. So there I went! You need leaded rope. This helps the pot sink, I guess. But you can find it online or at specialty fishing type places.

This is where the optional harness comes in. If you don’t feel comfortable tying the whole pot with the leaded rope, you can put the harness on and tie the rope to that.

A Buoy

Check out your state laws to see how your buoy needs to be marked. Here is where you can find the Washington State Rules for crabbing. If you’re not sure where to look, simply search google for your state laws on crabbing.
First Crab Pot


This is the grossest part about crabbing. (The second grossest – cleaning a crab.) You need to get some chicken, fish or bacon and leave it out for a day or two. J usually bags it into zip locks, and then puts it into a tupperware. Then you put that in a windowsill or something until you go crabbing. Crabs like rotten meat. A sales person at the grocery store told me his best tip is to use marked down tilapia, since it’s already at the end of it’s shelf life.

You’re Ready!

Then, go have fun! I got to the Island after work on Thursday night, and it was so awesome to be on the boat again. We hung out with everyone, then went to sleep. On Friday morning I got to put my very first crab pot into the water. It was so exciting!

After a few hours of letting the pot sit on Friday morning, I was anxious to pull up my pot and see if I’d caught anything. Even though it wasn’t my first time crabbing, it felt different to know that I was able to catch the crabs all by myself.

Pulling up my first crab pot!

Pulling up my first crab pot!

I hope this list helps! Let me know how your crabbing experience goes!

If you’re also going to be camping, don’t forget to check my camping pack list for the new-to-camping woman. Camping Pack List

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  • Reply
    September 9, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    I didn’t know you were into crabbing! haha.
    Rachael recently posted…Iceland Part One: an ER Visit, a Roadtrip & ALL the Waterfalls

    • Reply
      September 9, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      Haha it’s fun!

  • Reply
    3 Rules to Follow to Support A Passion to Protect Our Water Sources - Where My Soul Belongs
    July 5, 2016 at 7:19 am

    […] important rule we follow while on adventures, is to only take what we need. During crab season, a person with a license can retrieve a certain number of crabs of the appropriate species/size/gender per day. We each […]

  • Reply
    Aaron C.
    August 3, 2017 at 10:11 am

    Great article. I can’t wait till I go crab fishing it seems fun!

  • Reply
    Mark Noble
    August 4, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    Hi Brittany
    Just finished doing up my boat and went crabbing for the 1st time yesterday.No crabs but great fun. If you ever visit Australia i would be happy to take you out crabbing. ☺

    • Reply
      August 4, 2018 at 2:26 pm

      I’m glad you had a good time!! Better luck next go around with the crabs :)

  • Reply
    Richard Tunner
    January 26, 2021 at 11:00 pm

    Wow! amazing article! Thank you for sharing!
    Richard Tunner recently posted…Pool Fence Laws Texas: Residential Swimming Pool Fence Laws

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