Crabbing in Whitby Harbour, A Great Family Activity

Crabbing in Whitby Harbour has been the pastime of youngsters in the town for generations. Follow our step-by-step guide and learn how to catch Whitby Harbour crabs.

Named ‘doggering’ by locals, crabbing is a simple but fun activity where you use a single fishing line with a small weight to sink the bait, a juicy piece of bait (bacon rind, tinned mackerel in oil, or, highly recommended – a fish head), no hook needed and lots of patience. We promise once you start you'll spend hours enjoying this simple pastime. 

Crabbing in Whitby

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Step One – Find the perfect spot for crabbing in Whitby

Next to the swing bridge, you will spot a designated harbour fishing area where 99% of those ‘fishing’ are trying to catch red harbour crabs on simple hand-held lines.

Swing Bridge Whitby

You will probably see a lot of people crabbing in Whitby along harbour walls. Make sure to leave plenty of space for others passing and try and keep to the designated cast-off area next to the swing bridge. 

Crabbing in Whitby Harbour

Watch out for pesky seagulls! Keep bait covered at all times, keep a close eye on it, and don't throw in loose bait as seagulls can get caught in fishing lines trying to get it. 

Step Two – Fill your bucket to keep the harbour crabs safe

To fill your crab bucket with seawater tie your line to the bucket and lower it carefully into the water. Try and collect bits of seaweed if you can as crabs don’t like lots of direct sunlight. 

How to catch crabs in Whitby Harbour

We find it best to check the tide times and do this activity within an hour or two of high tide as it makes collecting water much easier. There is less time for the crabs to fall from the line when they are out of the water. 

Collecting water for Whitby crabs

Step 3 – Attach your crab bait

It's time to attach your bait, crabs love bacon, tinned mackerel in oil or, highly recommended if you can get one a fish head! Shops along the harbour sell crab bait for £1 per cup too so we tried a couple of those. 

Crabbing in Whitby

The lines and nets we purchased included attached bait nets which are perfect. We filled them up with a mixture of mackerel and bacon. Then squished it a bit, to release the juices. The smellier the better!

Crab fishing bait

Step 4 – Drop in your crab line in the harbour

Carefully drop in your line. Kids will want to check their crabbing line every few seconds, but leave the line for 5 minutes.

Crabbing in Whitby Harbour with lines

This should give time for the crabs to come out, sniff around and then decide on whether to dine on your offerings or scuttle back under the seaweed.

Step 5 – Bring up your fishing line

Despite what others say, don’t be in a hurry to bring up your fishing line. Slowly and gently is the key. Harbour crabs are very quick to sense excessive or unusual movement and will go into defensive mode and let go of the bait if alarmed.

How to catch crabs in Whitby

Take a long-armed net with you, these can be purchased from shops along the harbour too. This will help you catch any crabs before they fall off your bait.

We caught crabs on both the single line and the net. We totally recommend the net if you have never done this before as you are less likely to lose your crab lifting it out of the water.

A typical Whitby crab you can catch in the harbour

Care of the Whitby harbour crabs

Crabbing Whitby

Whitby Harbour crabs are only small and are not edible. Fishing for them provides endless enjoyment for youngsters who are keen to catch them. Treat these crabs carefully and gently. If you wish to keep any ‘captives’ in a bucket for an hour or more, please put some seaweed in as well because our little friends live at the darkened bottom of the harbour and are not comfortable with sunlight. When your fishing is over, please return the harbour crabs to their home, gently and carefully.

Care for Whitby

Let's keep Whitby litter-free. When you are finished please make sure you take your rubbish with you and dispose of your crabbing gear correctly, wildlife can get easily caught up in an old fishing line.

Catching Crabs Whitby

During peak season at Whitby, the height of summer, crab nets, lines, and bait can sell out. You can actually purchase these prior and take them with you to save any disappointment. Or if you live near the seaside take part in crabbing near to you.

Here are few suggested products you can buy from Amazon to take with you.

Tell us about your experiences crabbing in Whitby in the comments.

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