Crab Regulations and Methods of Take
Crabs can be harvested using various traditional methods, including:
- Traps (pots)
- Drop net
- Dip net
- Protection of Sponge Crabs: It is illegal to possess sponge crabs (egg-bearing crabs) at any time of the year. Sponge crabs must be immediately returned to the water alive.
- Trap Usage Restrictions: Removing crabs from traps or pots without specific licensing is prohibited. Crab traps cannot be removed from the water between half an hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise.
- Size Regulations: Except for peeler crabs (about to shed) and soft-shell crabs (recently shed), all crabs must be at least 5 inches measured from one lateral spine across the back of the shell to the opposite lateral spine. Peeler crabs under 5 inches must be kept separate during commercial harvest.
- Trap Marking: Crab trap floats must bear visible markings indicating the corresponding commercial or recreational crab license number. Vessel registration number is also required for traps fished from boats. Licensed commercial crabbers can register a buoy color code with Marine Patrol. Float lines must be made of non-floating or weighted material, easily cut with a knife, and at least 6 inches in diameter.
- Ownership Identification: Each crab trap must be permanently marked with a corrosion-resistant metal or plastic tag bearing the license holder’s full name.
- Escape Rings: Traps must have at least two escape rings on the vertical outside walls, with one in each chamber, each with a minimum inside diameter of 2 and 3/8 inches. These rings may be obstructed between April 1 to June 30 and September 1 to October 31 for retaining peeler or buster crabs.
- Winter Sanctuary: Fishing for crabs is prohibited between January 1 and March 31 each year in the winter crab sanctuary west of Cat Island.
For more information, contact the MDMR at 228-374-5000 or refer to the map at dmr.ms.gov/shrimp-crab.
Commercial Crabbing Regulations
- Commercial crabbing is not permitted north of the CSX railroad bridge in the three coastal counties of Mississippi.
- Trawl Usage: Crabs may be harvested by trawl, provided the trawl adheres to the maximum allowable dimensions specified for shrimp (refer to Shrimp section) and complies with all other relevant regulations governing trawl usage.
- Crabs incidentally caught in trawls must be promptly returned to the water unless the boat operator possesses a valid Mississippi commercial crab license.
Personal Consumption Allowance
- Licensed shrimp trawlers and licensed oyster fishermen are allowed to retain up to three dozen blue crabs for personal consumption.
For further details, consult the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources at 228-374-5000.
Recreational Crabbing Regulations
- A recreational crab license costing $5 is mandatory for catching crabs in traps for personal use only, not for commercial purposes.
- The use of drop nets for crabbing is permitted without obtaining a license.
- Recreational crabbers are restricted to using a maximum of six traps or pots per household when fishing for crabs for personal use.
- Traps or pots must be visibly marked with the owner’s name. If traps or pots are deployed from a vessel, they must bear the vessel’s registration number.
- Additionally, the float attached to the trap must display the recreational crab license number.
- Recreational crab traps are prohibited north of Interstate 10.
For additional information, contact the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources at 228-374-5000.
Diamondback Terrapins, a type of aquatic turtle, occasionally become caught in crab traps. Free Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) for crab traps are available from the MDMR Shrimp and Crab Bureau. Call 228-374-5000 for more information.