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Crabbing in Galveston

Blue crab - crabbing in Galveston

Crabbing in Galveston is a great way to enjoy the day and there is nothing better than cooking up your freshly caught crabs for dinner! Whether you plan to use a crab trap or just drop a string into the water, you can let your bait do most of the work! Here are some tips and tricks so your crabbing experience is fun and carefree, and also some ideas on the best places to catch crab, including Galveston Bay and the Gulf!

Types of Crabs in Galveston

There are a couple of different types of crabs you can catch locally in Galveston. It’s good to know the difference and what to do once you catch a crab. While there are several types of crab along the shoreline, next to piers, and in the bay – you’ll find two that are the most common to put on the dinner table.

Stone Crab

Stone crabs are characterized by their relatively small brown body with a pair of large claws. The claws are rounded and made for crushing to crack open snails, clams, and hermit shells. At one time, stone crabs were numerous in Galveston Bay, but numbers have declined in recent years.

“Stoneys”, as they are often called, are a great catch but remember you only take the claw from this crab and then release them. Check out this video on how to do this in a way that makes the crab regrow the claw.

Blue Crab

Blue crabs are very common and are most commonly found in coastal bays and along shallow waters of salt marshes. This makes the water in Galveston Bay a perfect place to catch blue crab. They take shelter in marsh plants or dig right into the mud. Females prefer areas that are more salty water passing into the gulf. Male blue crabs prefer less salty water and seldom leave the bay.

Females that are carrying eggs are referred to as “sponge females” and are most often found in the shallow gulf waters near estuaries or structures near the beachfront because these are the ares where they lay their eggs. It is illegal to catch sponge female crabs.

The males are biggest in the fall months and are most often found in the bay side of the island. Next, we’ll cover some of the best spots to catch crab in Galveston.

Where to go crabbing in Galveston

Whether you’re a local or just visiting, there are plenty of places to go crabbing in Galveston. As we previously discussed, crabs like salty water but males like the areas that are slightly less salty, which include tidal water like marshes and bays. Galveston is no exception. You’ll find the best crab on the bay side of the island and the they prefer to be near structures located under the water such as bridges, piers, docks, and pilings.

On the gulf side of the island, you can fish for crab off any of the fishing piers (61st street, 91st street) or near the jetty structures where you find other fishermen. The east end of the island offers a lot of shallow water fishing so you may want to try that area as well.

Crabbing in Galveston

While seasoned crabbers have their favorite places on the island, here are a few places you can start with to set crab traps or drop a line into the water.

For these first two, you need to hop on the Galveston-Bolivar Ferry (it’s free) and go across Galveston Bay. There are several great places to go crabbing on Bolivar including the North Jetty Bait Camp and further east. Find a spot along the inland waterway along the north side of the peninsula. You’ll do better if you look for a jetty or rock groin, as this is where the crab like to hang out.

Broken Bridge

Broken Bridge is a non-official name for an area on the Northwest side of Bolivar right after you land from the ferry. To get there, exit the ferry and start out on Hwy 87 east. Your first main street is going to be 7th street. Take a left, pass the famous Bolivar lighthouse. (Stop and take a picture if the lighting is right, it is one of the most photographic spots in this area with a lot of history behind the lighthouse.) Drive on 7th for about a half mile until you get to Overton Ave. As you continue, the street turns into 1st Street at the bridge.

North Jetty Bait Camp

The North Jetty is a popular fishing area which means the crab are there too. Stop in and pick up some supplies at the Bait Camp and settle in for some crab trapping. The crabs here are said to be plentiful. Just make sure you check for sponge females and throw back anything smaller than 5 inches. This is a popular fishing spot but you can find some times that are pretty quiet too.

Jamail Bay Park

Located right on 61st about a quarter mile from the I-45 exit in Galveston is the newest and one of the nicest parks you’ll find on the island, especially for fishing and crabbing. Plus, they have grills right there in the park so you can catch, clean, and cook right there in the park. There is also a boat ramp there, and usually you’ll find plenty of parking.

Seawolf Park

Seawolf Park is actually on Pelican Island about a stone’s throw north. This is an amazing place to fish because of it’s location along the ship channel and Galveston Bay. Along with great fishing is great crabbing! On the island, take Broadway to 51st, going North this crosses the Pelican Island Causeway onto Seawolf Parkway. Keep going until you dead end onto Seawolf Park.

There is a small entrance fee to get into the park unless you live in Galveston. Be sure to tell them at the gate if you are a resident. Once you arrive, set your traps and explore all there is to do on Pelican Island.

East End of Seawall Boulevard

If you drive east on the Seawall, you will eventually end at the Fort San Jacinto Historic marker near Boddecker Rd. You can’t miss it because Seawall Blvd literally ends there. This area is known for fishing as there are lots of shallow areas along the ship channel. This is right were Galveston Bay, Galveston Harbor, and the Galveston Ship Channel all meet up. Find a good place to park and drop your bait!

Galveston Bay

Most of the bay side of Galveston Island is private residences. There are a few exceptions, most notably the bay side of Galveston Island State Park. The best way to experience crabbing in Galveston Bay is to rent an AirBnb that is located on the bay or along one of the many canals. Set your trap and tie it up right to the dock or a part of the yard.

Galveston Island State Park

(No license required in some cases!)
Galveston Island State Park (GISP) is a great place to visit for the day, weekend, or longer. The state park is located on the western end of Galveston about 8 miles west of the Seawall, on Hwy 3005. (If you aren’t familiar, Seawall Blvd turns into 3005 as soon as you get west of the seawall itself. This is at Diamond Beach resort near Cove Blvd.)

There are two parts to the park: the gulf side and the bay side. Your best bet for crabbing is going to be on the bay side of the park on a day where there is little to no wind. The park is clean, patrolled by Texas Wildlife and Parks Department, and there is plenty of fishing, swimming, kayaking, and boating going on in the area.

All that, and you aren’t required to have a license to fish in the state park. As long as you are fishing from shore, no license is required. However, if you get into a kayak or wade out into the water you need to have a valid license. (See the official website for more information on requirements for a Texas fishing license.)

San Luis Pass

(Warning: Do NOT go in the water at San Luis Pass!)
If you can access a part of San Luis Pass at the far western end of the island, you are likely to find good crabs in that area. However, do not go into the water for any reason in this area. Very experienced swimmers and fishing enthusiasts have been swept away in the pass, even in shallow (ankle deep) water. People drown there every year, and most of them were fishing.

The reason it is so dangerous in this area is because there are several different bodies of water moving in several different directions. These currents are constantly changing and very difficult to see above the water. The sand underneath the currents are not stable.

Also, you will need a 4-Wheel Drive vehicle to access most of the non-beach areas so be careful. Many vehicles get stuck and it may not be worth it if you aren’t out for an adventure. As fishing goes, there are plenty of options east of the pass.

Seawall Boulevard

There are several jetties along the seawall and many are known to get some good fishing and crabbing. Be careful if the waves are rough as they can wash over the jetties. Be sure to watch your step and don’t venture out on red flag days. You won’t be surrounded by swimmers as are they are not allowed to go near the jetties. If it is a windy day, crabbing or fishing from the jetties is not a good idea. Make sure you can get your line out beyond the jetty rocks and retrieve it without getting stuck!

Galveston Crabbing Season

There is no specific season for crabbing in Galveston, or any part of Texas. There is a 10-day period where you are not allowed to catch crab. Aside from that, you can catch crab year round. There is no limit on crab. Legal catches must have a minimum body width of 5 inches, measuring from spine to spine.

It is illegal to keep females that are carrying fertilized eggs – also known as a sponge female. These crab are easily identified by a spongy mass of eggs found on their abdomen.

sponge female crabbing zone
Sponge female crab. Photo:Crabbingzone.com

Here is more info on the Galveston crabbing season.

How to Catch Blue Crabs in Galveston

String and Bait Method

There are a couple of different methods to catching crab and the one you choose depends mostly on your budget and your level of patience. The easiest method is to use raw chicken or fish tied to a piece of string. Tie a rock to the very end so your bait will stay under water. About 5 feet away from the rock, tie your bait to the string. Depending on the depth of the water, you can add more bait to the string too.

When you are ready, throw (or drop) the rock end out about two feet away from where you want the bait to sit. Then wait. And watch. And wait. Once your string is tugged by a crab, slowy and gently pull the string out of the water toward you. This needs to be a gentle pull as you are “walking” the crab toward you.

You should have a net sitting right below the point where the crab would come out of the water. Don’t let him come up from the water completely or it will drop the bait. This takes a bit of practice and a lot of patience.

Crab Trap Method

Some prefer to set a crab trap, go about the day doing other things, and then come back to check the trap for crab. This method is just as effective and doesn’t require manual catching. You can buy a trap at a local bait shop or purchase one online. You can usually also find them at Walmart on the Seawall and sometimes at Target on 61st at I-45.

There are ring traps where you put the bait in the middle, then when you pull the trap up it creates a bucket like shape and the crab can’t react quickly enough. There are also collapsible traps that open when they reach the bottom, or they have reverse funnel entrances. Typically the bait is in the center of the trap and the structure or shape makes it difficult for the crab to exit.

How To Clean, Prepare and Eat Blue Crab

Blue crab meat is very tasty and you can prepare it in a number of ways. It’s the end of your day crabbing in Galveston…your freshly caught crabs should be cleaned as soon as possible to avoid spoilage. If the crab is dead before you can clean it, you should discard it. Crabs can be cooked (boiled or grilled most likely) before or after cleaning.

To clean a crab, remove the claws first by holding the body in one hand and twist the claw off with your other hand. Now, hold the crab by the legs in one hand, with your other hand place your fingers under the shell at the back. Pull the shell up and off. Finally, clean out and discard internal organs in the center of the crab.

Make a small slice on the top of one side of the body and then repeat on the other side. You should now be able to scoop out the crab meat from the exposed chambers. Be sure to refrigerate or cook the meat as soon as possible!

Once you have the crab ready to cook, you can select any number of styles from crab cakes to sauteed in butter. Some people like to catch, grill, and eat them just like that. There is nothing better than the taste of a fresh catch when you go crabbing in Galveston!

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