Blue crab hunt in Panama City with traps in the summer heat

Trapping blue crab in Panama City has been a summertime tradition for my family for as long as possible. We were gliding down to Captain Anderson’s marina, near where they clean all the fish from the charter fleet. Get some fish heads and carcasses from the fish house. Then, drop nets with hoops loaded with portions as bait to catch a few gallons of blue crabs. A great way to spend an afternoon as a kid. With the prize being a pile of sweet, delicious blue crabs.

That was two decades ago now, and things have changed a lot since then. Fish house practices in the marina have now changed and the crabs are no longer around. I upgraded from cheap $3 ring nets that we used to run until we now have a set of 5 lobster traps. A good crab trap can cost up to $40, so having a trap limit of 5 traps isn’t cheap, but consider spending the money as an investment for the future. Cry once, buy once, The cheaper traps I’ve bought rust and come off. While on the other extreme, the cute traps are still in good condition and not rusting despite being a year older.

Now for the bait for the lobster traps, I used a mix of baits for them. I had pre-frozen tampons from scraps and tuna from work. In addition to fish tires, fish guts, and fish heads. The tampons were convenient to use, very oily, and bloody, but the pinfish remove them from the traps in a day. The tire and guts will last longer, but they didn’t shed an oil slick as the tuna slicker did.

Panama City Blue Crab
The trap on the dock is loaded with 6 blue crabs. The bait is completely gone, only the bones remain.

The quayside crab trap produced the best during the duration of the voyage, but was also in the water the longest. Setting traps forward was straight forward. Feed the traps, make sure everything is shut off, and get rid of them, then check them occasionally. It is not a very complicated process, but it is definitely a rewarding one. On this trip, I mostly used the guts and tires of the fish I had left from cleaning fish from a fishing trip abroad the day before. I had set four traps around the ship and placed one off the boat berth.

When you set your traps, try to choose points deeper in the bay or bay where you steal. Make sure you don’t set traps in the navigation channel either. This is a good way to lose traps and is dangerous to others on the water. Lead line is also your best friend, as the rope will sink rather than pop up like multiple ropes. This way, the chance of the boat stanchion cutting through is reduced.

Panama City Blue Crab
Set up a lobster trap near the entrance and natural beaches

I ended up choosing a flush near some weeds, a seawall, and a few points deeper near the channel, but far enough away not to pose a danger. While at the same time avoiding other crab traps already set up by others. The fifth trap remained tied to the curb because it produces so well. Don’t leave crabs to find more crabs. I put them on just before sunset because Florida is hot in June. They get an initial soak overnight to see how the stain will produce and see if it needs adjusting and transferring.

Panama City Blue Crab
Grab the first pot of the morning
Panama City Blue Crab
One crab and one hard catfish

After a night of soaking I went out the next morning and spawned 3 blue crab traps one piece with the 4th trap empty. There were also a catfish or two that were caught in traps. The cool thing about catfish is that the crabs will sometimes eat it if they get stuck. Therefore, they become a free fresh bait for you. The dock crab trap also produced 3 more crabs. Sometimes you don’t have to travel far for crabs, but you don’t want to overload an area with traps, it’s pointless if the traps are too close together.

Panama City Blue Crab

Panama City Blue Crab
Good trap with 2 crabs inside after soaking overnight

Since almost all traps produce some blue crab in Panama City, I thought it was best to leave the pots where they were originally dropped. This produced 10 more crabs the next day before we had to go home. With how hot the water was, I was more than happy with a few dozen crabs caught in a couple of days. Several of the first batch of blue crabs ended up in the pot for dinner that night, and I’ll show you how to cook them in another article.

Panama City Blue Crab
Prize – a bucket of Panama City Blue Crab

You can catch a few Panama City blue crabs like these in crab traps, too. They usually escape through the hatches of baby crabs or the net itself, but if you catch some, they are great live baits. You can just crush their claws with pliers and they will bring them down. Don’t take off the claws, this will kill them. You want to rip their claws off so they don’t pinch you or the other crabs in the bait bucket or live well. This particular guy was so cute I used the plastic bag to trap him. Small crabs can draw blood easily with their small, sharp claws.

Panama City Blue Crab
Small Panama City Blue Crab like this one is a great live bait for tarpon and grouper; They love them.

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