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Crabbing is a classic British seaside activity that keeps both children and adults entertained for hours! The team at Coast & Country Cottages are well seasoned crabbers, and we want to share with you our top crabbing tips, certain to get you and those mighty-clawed crustaceans coming back for more…

Crabbing tips _ child with crab

Use the quick links below for specific details on our top South Devon crabbing tips, or continue reading for our complete guide:

Crabbing tips: Our guide to crabbing in South Devon

Crabbing tips _ Children with crab net

Crabbing equipment

  • Bucket: The bigger the bucket, the better. Crabs don’t like being overcrowded, it’s a little unfair. The current guideline suggests a maximum of ten crabs per bucket, so be mindful of this when pulling in the crabs!
  • Crab line: Essentially, a crab line consists of a piece of string or fishing wire, bait and a weight that is heavy enough to keep the bait at the bottom of the shore. You will find crab lines readily available in shops throughout South Devon, but if you do get stuck, it’s very easy to make your own.
  • A net: As soon as you bring your crab out of the water, the little rascal will try and jump off and head back home. Using a net can be useful to land the crabs, and then placing them in your bucket to view their quirky antics. You can also try to reduce your impact on the environment by opting for eco crabbing sets as opposed to the regular ones.
  • Crab bait: Crabs are notoriously greedy and have a super sense of smell, so the smellier the bait the better. Firm favourites are raw liver, bacon, sardines, squid and fish heads (if they are a couple of days old then even better!), all of which can be found at local butchers and fishmongers throughout the region.

How to go crabbing | Our step by step guide

Crabbing tips _ child with crabbing line

Step 1: Find a suitable spot and drop your line into the water. Make sure that your bait reaches the bottom and try to avoid any clusters of seaweed.

Step 2: Hold the line loosely in your hand and wait (ever so patiently!) until you feel a crab tucking into your ‘sumptuous’ bait.

Step 3: When you’re 100% sure the crab has a firm grip and is enjoying a feast, slowly and steadily bring the line up. This part of crabbing is a fine art, where practise makes perfect; try to pull the line up slowly, so the crab doesn’t even realise it’s happening, but not so slowly that the crab has eaten all the bait and jumped off.

Step 4: Make sure your net is to hand, and place it under the crab just before lifting it from the water. If you plan on keeping your crab whilst waiting for more, place the crab in your bucket. Fill your bucket half full of sea water, and place a little seaweed in it to provide shade for the crabs. Try and change the water once an hour and keep the bucket in a shady spot, being mindful to not overcrowd the space.

Step 5: Shore crabs aren’t edible… so do not try cooking them, let them go home! Find a suitable place close to the water’s edge to let your crabs free, and then send them scuttling. Children love watching them scurry sideways as they head back into the water, just remember to keep little fingers and toes away from pincers, because crabs can nip in self-defence!

Our top 5 crabbing tips

Crabbing tips _ Dartmouth crabbing on the embankment

  1. The best time to catch crabs is just after the tide begins to rise. The little critters are adept at burying themselves in the mud at low tide to avoid drying out and also becoming a seagull’s snack!
  2. If crabs start to fight and become aggressive in the bucket, place them back in the water.
  3. Crabbing requires patience. Try and leave it at least a few minutes to make sure you give those mighty clawed crustaceans enough time to get scoffing on the bait before you gently wind the line in.
  4. Try to reduce your impact on the environment by opting for eco crabbing sets. Lots of places now sell wooden crab lines and bamboo nets as an alternative to plastic. It’s also a great idea to keep hold of your equipment so you can reuse them on your next holiday in South Devon.
  5. The best way to pick up a crab is to gently hold either side of its shell, or pick it up from the back with one finger on top of the shell and one finger underneath. Make sure to avoid holding crab claws at all times!

The best crabbing spots in South Devon

With stunning harbourside towns and a coastline that encompasses a variety of sandy beaches, secluded coves and umpteen rock-pools, it’s no surprise that South Devon has some of the best crabbing spots in Britain.

Situated in the town centre, Victoria Quay is a favourite crabbing spot in Salcombe, and best of all, some of the Quay provides a small wall, perfect for smaller children that are often fearless and eager crabbers. Be sure to check the tide times before heading out as you will need an incoming or high tide for the best results.

Dartmouth has so many great crabbing spots it can be difficult to know where to start. The most popular location is along the embankment, where you can enjoy fantastic views of the River Dart. If you would rather keep away from the crabbing crowds then head to the Dartmouth Castle Ferry Steps.

Crabbing tips _ Dartmouth crabbing spot

One of the lesser known crabbing spots in South Devon is found along the footpath that runs parallel to the railway line in Kingswear. A highlight of this spot (if you are very lucky!) is that you might catch a close-up view of the steam train as it passes.

The best place for crabbing in Dittisham is off the pontoon, so whilst waiting for crabs to nibble your bait, enjoy watching the motorboats cruise the River Dart. Located just a stone’s throw from The Ferry Boat Inn and the Anchorstone Cafe, you will never find yourself far for from refreshments should your crabbing session become a little strenuous!

You will find shore crabs throughout the estuary in Kingsbridge, and one of the best spots to crab is from The Quayside. If you would like to enjoy a tipple, and even a bite to eat, then head the The Crabshell Inn which is situated on the quayside and has a great selection of tables shouldering the water’s edge.

Crabbing tips _ Bowcombe crabbing spot

Bowcombe Bridge
Bowcombe bridge overlooks the Kingsbridge estuary towards Salcombe, and is a very popular spot amongst families. Here, you will find children and adults enjoying a range of activities such as crabbing, paddle boarding, kayaking and swimming. For the best crabbing spot, walk down from the bridge and sit along the high wall and slipway.

South Pool
South Pool is extremely peaceful and tranquil, and you will certainly see swans, ducks, and fish jumping out of the water on your crabbing expedition. The best place for crabbing in the village is from the small pontoon, which is easy to reach, simply head past the Millbrook Inn pub (serving excellent food and drink), down the lane and across the waterfront. It’s so peaceful here, and crabbing at South Pool is always successful!

Stoke Gabriel
Nestled between the River Dart and a tranquil mill pool, Stoke Gabriel is regarded as one of the most idyllic crabbing spots in the county. Drop your line along the shore of the mill pool, along the quay or on the dam itself. What’s more, The River Shack Cafe is a popular bistro situated on the water’s edge, and sells not only top produce, but also crabbing equipment should you need it.

You would be hard pressed to find a better place to go crabbing in South Devon than the traditional fishing town of Brixham. There’s plenty of room along either side of the harbour walls, with local shops nearby to pick up some crabbing essentials, so you can make the most of this quintessentially British activity. There are plenty of fish and chip shops, small pubs and cafés in Brixham to enjoy, so you can rest assured there won’t be any rumbling tums too!

Salcombe Crab Festival

Crabbing tips _ Salcombe Crab Festival

South Devon is such a crabbing hotspot, that we even host our own festival inspired by the famously flavoursome brown crab caught off the South Devon coast! The Salcombe Crab Festival (fondly known as Crabfest) is an annual celebration of the local fishing, food and tourism industries. As well as celebrating Salcombe’s historic crab fishing industry, it also raises money for important local charities, and is an extremely popular event. Expect to enjoy a jam-packed day full of events that include cookery demos, crab picking masterclasses, crab pot making, live music, not forgetting the ultimate crabbing tips!

Find out more about the Salcombe Crab Festival 2022

Wherever you choose to holiday in the beautiful South Hams, you will always be within easy reach of some fantastic crabbing locations. Explore our stunning range of holiday homes, suitable for all tastes and requirements in and around South Devon.

We hope you enjoyed our crabbing tips, and guide on where to go crabbing in South Devon. There are plenty of other exciting activities to enjoy in our region, so for further suggestions take a look at the best things to do in South Devon for all ages, or browse our family days out pages.

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