Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Regulations for Recreational Crabbing

Licensing and Registration

For detailed information on obtaining recreational crabbing licenses and registering crab pots, refer to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) guidelines on Recreational Crabbing Licenses & Crab Pot Registration.

Seasonal and Time Restrictions

Season: The crabbing season runs from April 1 to December 15.

Time of Day:

  • Rivers, Creeks, and Tributaries:
    • April and October through December 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 December 15: One half-hour after sunrise to 5 p.m.
    • May through September: One half-hour before sunrise to 5 p.m.

Day of Week Restrictions: Recreational crabbing is not permitted on Wednesdays, with exceptions for crab pots on private property, handlines, dip nets, and weeks when a state or federal holiday falls on a Wednesday or Thursday.

Minimum Size Limits

  • 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.

Legal and Illegal Practices

  • Selling crabs or possessing egg-bearing (sponge) crabs, female hard, or peeler crabs is illegal.
  • It's prohibited to set or fish gear within 100 feet of another's set gear or to use another person's gear.
  • Harvesting crabs while SCUBA diving or using unauthorized gear is not allowed.

Crab Pot Regulations

Crab pots must include two cull rings of specified sizes, a turtle reduction device, and require annual registration.

Creel/Possession Limits

  • Unlicensed Individuals: Limits vary by activity, including shore, unlicensed boat, and waterfront crab pots harvesting.
  • Licensed Individuals and Boats: Specific limits apply, with detailed guides available online for licensed activities and boat limits.

Gear Allowances

  • Unlicensed Recreational Crabbing: Includes unlimited handlines and dip nets, with restrictions on crab pots and prohibitions on trotlines, collapsible traps, and net rings.
  • Licensed Recreational Crabbing: Offers broader gear allowances, including specific lengths for trotlines and limits on traps, rings, and seine nets.

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