Sunday, August 5, 2018

How to Modify a Crab Trap

When my friend, Captain Ralph MacDonald heard that I have an interest in capturing and eating the invasive green crabs he gave me a brand new crab trap and some fish carcases. Thank you Ralph! After inspecting it I quickly realized the spaces between the wires were too wide allowing these tiny crabs to escape. I expressed my idea of finding a material to make the holes smaller to my husband, so we visited our local Home Depot for steel hardware cloth. This post is a DIY on how to modify a store-purchased crab trap to capture the green crabs. You may have a better idea on how to alter the trap but this is what makes sense to me. When working with the wires be careful not to puncture your skin! I was very cautious but ended up pricking myself, fortunately just once with the tiny wire.

This will be my one and only medical or nursing comment about working with wires and harvesting marine animals--be sure your tetanus vaccine is up-to-date. Please have a conversation with your primary care provider if you are unsure. This is a food blog and I will try to answer only questions regarding green crabs, any crab questions I don't have the answer for I will do my best to find it. I will defer all medical and nursing questions to your primary care provider. If you do not have any please find one.

This trap took me several hours to make but it was also my first attempt at this. The whole process was not at all complicated. I basically cut out the panels and attached them to the exterior sides of my trap. The cutting took the most time because I was using a small wire cutter. I cut 2 1/2 to 3 inch length wire pieces (recycled from the wire that came wrapped around the mesh cloth) to secure the panels together. For the edges along the vertical sides of the pyramid I used a long nose pliers to wrap the new exterior sides to the original sides. I avoided wrapping any parts that were adjacent to the center square panel. All of the triangular panels must be able to move quickly and easily (flatten out when the entire trap is on the seafloor and back into a pyramid shape when pulling up on a string or rope). Any pieces of wire that were cut and sticking out I bent them with a long nose pliers to create a dull edge for safety reasons. I find that adding the new exterior sides on the outside of the original sides and wrap the wires inward is safer than having the pieces inside and wrapping out. If you modify your own trap you can decide what works best for you.

I use a soft mesh bag from a recycled clam bag, purchased at a seafood market, to store my bait and tie it to the center of the trap. I don't like waste so every time I return home I untie my bait bag and place the entire bag inside a plastic bag and store it in the freezer for the next crabbing trip. I use the same bait bag with the same bait. I would refresh it by adding 1-2 small new pieces of fish for each trip. On my first attempt I was able to pull up 101 green crabs in 2 hours. The second attempt I got 80 in an hour. The third time I pulled up a record of 103 crabs in an hour. The fourth time and most recent trip I went with scientist/researcher Dr. Bradt and pulled up 42 crabs in 45 minutes. Most of the crabs were roughly from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches. The last batch I was able to get one that was 3/4 inch, the smallest from my trap.

modified crab trap

drop the trap in the water and secure the lines loosely to the dock
look closely and you will see the crabs crawling towards the bait
green crabs

How to Modify a Crab Trap


1 Eagle Claw Star Crab Trap
1 roll of 1/4 in. x 2 ft. x 5 ft. 23-Gauge Galvanized Steel Hardware Cloth
About 2 feet of wires
1 long nose pliers
1 wire cutter
A yardstick (optional)
A marker (optional)
Magnet (optional)


On a flat surface open up the trap and roll out the steel cloth.

open  up the trap and roll out the steel cloth
Cut a square panel out of the cloth for the bottom (center piece) of the trap, leaving about 1/4 to 1/2- inch extra (on the cut sides) in order to bend the edges of those sides so the cut (sharp) pieces will not stick out and cause you present and future injury. It is always best to cut slightly larger than what you need and then fold in what you don't need. You may use a yardstick and a marker to mark the area (although you may end up putting some of the marker along the yardstick edge permanently) to guide you if needed. The yardstick is not necessary but it may help guide you.

cut out a square piece (for the bottom of the trap)
fold or bend the cut (sharp) edges with a long nose pliers
the bottom part is cut and the edges are not sharp to the touch
Cut the cloth into triangular shapes, again about 1/4 to 1/2-inch larger around the periphery than the original pieces. This way you can wrap the vertical sides along the original sides. For the top (tip) of the pyramid you do not want to close it up entirely. If you happen to do that (which I did) it is OK since you can always cut it out later. For some of the sides I cut the cloth in a straight line instead of following the angle of the triangle because it is quicker and easier. Wrap the edges of the vertical sides tightly along the original sides using a long nose pliers. Be sure that all the sharp edges are pressed tightly inward to prevent injury.

cut the pieces for the vertical sides
(try not to cover the tip of the opening,
if you do it is not a big deal, you can cut out the holes later)

use a long nose pliers and wrap the sides
of the exterior panel tightly to the original trap
fold or bend the cloth to wrap the interior original trap
Cut 2 1/2 to 3-inch wire pieces (may use the same wire that came already wrapping the cloth). Take a piece of wire and make a U shape and loop from the outside (of the trap) to inside the trap to secure the new exterior sides to the original sides. Take the long nose pliers and twist the wire piece to secure tightly. Bend any sharp edges underneath. Make sure nothing sharp is sticking out where it can cause you injury. Repeat this process on all sides of the trap to secure the panels.

cut the wire into 2 1/2 to 3-inch lengths
make a U shape with the cut wire pieces
loop the U shaped wire from the outside in to secure the 2 panels
use a long nose pliers to twist the wire a few times
the tie should look something like this
bend the sharp tips underneath to prevent any injury
Once all the exterior sides are completely secured to the original trap, look carefully for any sharp areas. Use the long nose pliers and bend any sharp pieces inward so they will not stick out and cause injury. Pick up any loose wire pieces from your work area and after the project is complete, properly discard them in the trash. You may use a magnet to help.

pick up any loose wire pieces and put in a container
may use a magnet to assist with this job
if you happen to cover up the triangular side while working on the trap
(see next photo below)
cut out a hole at the top (tip) of the pyramid trap
 in order to loop a rope or bungee cord through later
now the top (tip) of the pyramid trap has openings
for a rope or bungee cord to loop through
When you use your trap be sure to bring a long nose pliers and wire cutter with you in case you need to secure or fix it. Be sure to wash all of your supplies and trap with fresh water after using to prevent rust.

my typical crabbing supplies: a cooler, a bag with fresh water,
paper or cloth towels, extra bait, knife, scissors, long nose pliers,
wire cutter, small bungee cord, and bandaids

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