Getting Crabby Over Crab Traps

Recreational crabbers grow angry over vandalized crab traps and lines.

Recreational crab season is in full swing in the month of December (Oct. 15 – May 15), and because of that, the ways in which crab traps can be vandalized, tampered or broken is equally wide open.

Commercial trappers usually complain the loudest about their pots, but many recreational crabbers have seen their pots slashed, busted or simply disappear. The difference is that recreational fishermen average close to three traps, while commercial crab-takers can have 300 or more. Compare recreational and commercial crab trap regulations.

“I am so sick of my traps being violated,” said Florida Sportsman member stokes. “I know who is doing it. They are commercial crabbers. What recourse do I have? If I were to get photos of them stealing crabs or trashing my traps would I be able to prosecute?”

Tampering with traps, trap contents, lines or buoys that do not belong to you may result in a third degree felony conviction, fines of up to $5,000 and the permanent revocation of your fishing privileges, says the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

If traps are derelict or remain in the water during a closed season, it’s still illegal to remove the trap from the water. The FWC has two programs to remove lost and abandoned traps from state waters. The Spiny Lobster, Stone Crab and Blue Crab Trap Retrieval Program pays commercial fishermen to remove fishable traps from state waters during closed seasons. Two, the Derelict Trap and Trap Debris Removal Program allows volunteer groups to collect traps during open or closed seasons.

As much as an eye for an eye would make many crab fishermen feel better, that’s not the legal way to protect your traps. Do not try to “booby trap” or “rig” your crab trap in a way that hurts an offender of your trap–the consequences are not worth it. Still, some Florida Sportsman members came up with some interesting “hypothetical” solutions.