Louisiana Sportsman
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Inshore Fishing in Pointe a la Hache in Southeast Louisiana

Crab Laws

We recently pulled our 12' trawl for some nice bait shrimp.We also had a beautiful "bycatch" of blue crab. Can anyone tell me the laws on keeping these crab. We did throw them back. Do we need a crab license to keep 'em? I couldn't really find anything on th LDWF site. Thanks,Spechaser
May 16, 2006 at 7:39pm
Susan Gros - Louisiana Sportsman Field Reporter Profile Photo
Posted May 16, 2006 at 9:04pm
Crabs From Trawling

I know that you must immediately return "berry crabs" to the water. Those would be the egg carrying females that are easily identifiable.

I will check further with LDWF Enforcement and let you know via a post on this site.

Susan Gros

Mr. Predator Profile Photo
Posted May 16, 2006 at 9:26pm

This summary should be used as a digest only, not as a legal compilation, since exact language has not been retained; please consult Title 76 (Wildlife and Fisheries legislative acts) or Title 56 (commission promulgations) for original verbiage. Listed regulations are current as of April 2005.


Crabs may be taken with any legal crab trap, crab dropnet, trawl, trotline, handline, bushline, dip net, or cast net. Dredges cannot be used for the intentional taking of crabs.

A legal crab trap must have a solid float (six inches minimum diameter), a non-floating buoy line (1/4 inch minimum diameter), be marked, and have escape rings.

A crab trap must be constructed of wire and no larger than 30 inches on any side, with entrance funnels extending no further than seven inches into the inside of the trap and the horizontal opening in the wall of the trap shall be at least 1.5 times the vertical diameter of the opening.

A crab trap shall be marked with a 1.5 inch stainless steel self-locking tag attached to the center of the trap ceiling or a plastic bait box cover, containing the commercial fisherman's license number or the recreational fisherman's trap license number legibly engraved or embossed.

Floats and lines are not required on crab traps located in areas designated as freshwater north of the Intracoastal Waterway and west of LA Hwy. 70.

Each trap shall have a minimum of two 2 and 5/16 inch inside diameter escape rings, with one in each chamber. Escape rings shall be rigid, and attached to the vertical, outside walls flush with the floor or baffle. Rings may be blocked from April 1-June 30 and from September 1-October 31. Fishermen in Lake Pontchartrain with a soft crab shedders license shall be exempt from escape ring mandates.

A serviceable crab trap is defined as any crab trap of legal construction that is maintained in such a manner with the potential to harvest crabs.

Crab fishermen must return their unserviceable traps to shore for proper disposal.

Shrimp fishermen who catch an unserviceable crab trap in their nets must retain it on their vessel for proper onshore disposal. Shrimp fishermen who catch an otherwise serviceable crab trap without a float must return the trap to the water with a common float (an all-white, plastic, one-gallon or larger bleach bottle).

A fisherman with a crab trap license may raise and check any trap with a common float to determine ownership. The owner of the trap shall return the common float to any shrimper for reuse.

Harvest of crabs by trawls in inside waters is permitted only during the open season for shrimp and with a legal commercial mesh size.

Possession and Size Limits

Blue crabs of legal size may be taken in unlimited quantities by commercial fishermen, provided there is compliance with all other requirements of the law. Except for certain refuges or wildlife management areas, each recreational fishermen has a 144 crab possession limit; there is a twelve dozen crabs per boat or vehicle per day limit for Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, Marsh Island Wildlife Refuge, Pointe-au-Chien Wildlife Management Area, and Salvador Wildlife Management Area.

The minimum commercial size limit is five inches in carapace width. There is no minimum size for recreational crabbers.

Any blue crab less than five inches in carapace width caught by commercial fishermen must be returned immediately to the water without avoidable injury. A 10% tolerance of undersized crabs is allowed.

Premolt, "buster" or peeler crabs less than five inches in width held by a commercial fisherman for later soft crab shedding are exempt from commercial size limits. Peeler crabs must be held in a separate container marked "peelers" or "busters". Peeler crabs must be no further from molting than having a white line on the back paddle fin.

Blue crabs less than the commercial legal size may be taken from privately owned ponds, impoundments, or waters and sold to other persons for purposes of stocking private waters, ponds, or impoundments.

If more than 10 percent of crabs in a fifty-crab random sample are less than the minimum commercial size limit, the entire number of crabs in that crate or group of crabs equivalent to one crate is in violation.

A commercial fisherman with twice the allowable percentage of undersize crabs shall be subjected to additional penalty (ie., forfeiture of the trap license and a prohibition from applying for a new license for six months). A second violation of this type will incur further penalty.

Crabs in a work box are not subject to the minimum commercial size limits while held aboard the vessel. Each fisherman may have one work box, if not using a grader, or two work boxes under the grader, if using a grader.

If the wholesale or retail dealer can identify the commercial fisherman who harvested the undersized crabs, only the later is subject to undersize crab violations.

It shall be a affirmative defense for a wholesale or retail dealer charged with possession of undersize crabs if it can be proved through invoice or other written documentaion that the total number of undersized crabs possessed by the dealer did not exceed 10% of the total number of crabs bought.

Time Restrictions

The baiting, tending, checking, or removing of crab traps, the contents of serviceable crab traps or their lines, buoys, or markers is prohibited in public waters from one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise.

Crab traps which are no longer serviceable or in use must be removed from the water and properly disposed of or stored.

Recreational crabbing is allowed from official sunrise to sunset in Rockefeller Refuge and Marsh Island Wildlife Refuge and from 1 hour before sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset on Pointe-au-Chien and Salvador Wildlife Management Areas. Portions of Rockefeller Refuge are further restricted from March 1 to December 1. For purposes of derelict trap removal, the use of crab traps may be prohibited in one or more areas of the state during a 16-day period between February 1 and March 31 and during a 14-day period which includes the opening of the spring inshore shrimp season.

Area Restrictions

Crab traps cannot be set in navigable channels or entrances to streams. The fishermen must place his crab traps so that vessels can safely navigate.

The taking of crabs with legal crab traps, crab pots, nets, and lines shall be permitted in the Lake Catherine and Lake Pontchartrain Sanctuary.

Metal tackle or metal crab traps shall not be used in any of the public waters north of the Intracoastal Canal in the Calcasieu River or in any body of water comprising the Calcasieu River System north of the Intracoastal Canal, or in the waters of Vermillion Bay from Cypremort Point one mile offshore to Blue Point.

The use of traps is prohibited in the Tchefuncte River.

Commercial gear (trawl, trotline, traps) or commercial fishing is not allowed from the Grand Isle shoreline out to the one fathom curve or on the following wildlife management areas or refuges: Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, Marsh Island Wildlife Refuge, Point-au-Chien Wildlife Management Area with the exception of Wonder Lake and Cut Off Canal, and Salvador Wildlife Management Area. For purposes of derelict trap removal, the use of crab traps may be prohibited in one or more areas of the state during a 16-day period between February 1 and March 31 and during a 14-day period which includes the opening of the spring inshore shrimp season.

Other Restrictions

No person may take diamondback terrapins by traps of any kind.

All crabs in the egg or berry stage taken by any means must be returned immediately to the water. However, a legally licensed commercial crab fisherman may have in his workbox an incidental take of crabs in the berry stage in an amount equal to not more than two percent of the total number of crabs in his possession.

A commercial fisherman may keep for personal consumption up to 25 total fish (excluding freshwater gamefish, spotted seatrout, and red drum) caught in crab traps under the recreational limits for each species.

No person may intentionally damage or destroy serviceable crab traps, floats or lines, or remove the contents thereof, other than the licensee or his agent. During a closed area for a derelict trap sweep, however, abandoned crab traps may be brought to designated disposal sites.

Commercial fishermen must tag or mark any crabs sold with their commercial fisherman's license number, name, and date harvested.

Licensing Requirements

A license is not required of recreational crab fishermen unless when using crab traps or crabbing in LDWF wildlife management areas or refuges. In addition to the basic recreational fishing license, a recreation crab trap fisherman must purchase the appropriate gear license. Gear fees for residents are: 10.00 for up to 10 crab traps; for traps attached to a trotline, the fee is 1.00 per trap. The gear fee for nonresidents is double that of residents. Any recreational crabber on a LDWF wildlife management area or refuge must have a basic and saltwater recreational fishing license or a Wild Louisiana stamp.

Any citizen of the state on active military duty shall not be required to purchase a recreational gear license.

A commercial crab fisherman must possess a commercial fisherman's license in his name (55.00 for residents, 460.00 for nonresidents), a vessel license in the name of the vessel owner (15.00 for residents, 60.00 for nonresidents) in saltwater areas, and an appropriate commercial gear license; crab trap (25.00 for residents and 100.00 for nonresidents); crab trap/trotline (per trap up to 25, 1.00 for residents and 4.00 for nonresidents); and, trotline/bushline (25.00 for nonresidents, 100.00 for nonresidents).

A commercial crab fisherman who sells catch directly to a consumer must have a fresh products license (20.00 for residents, 120.00 for nonresidents). A secondary fresh products license for a spouse of a commercial fisherman may be purchased for $5. In addition, a commercial fisherman selling catch to anyone other than a consumer or a licensed Louisiana wholesale / retail seafood dealer must possess a wholesale / retail seafood dealer's license.

A person buying, acquiring, or handling any crabs for resale must purchase a wholesale/retail dealer's license, which is valid for only one place of business. Wholesale/retail dealer license fees are as follows: business (250.00 for residents, 1,105.00 for nonresidents); vehicles (105.00 for residents, 405.00 for nonresidents); restaurants/retail groceries (30.00).

Operators and drivers of any commercial transport except common carriers (ie., person transporting for hire), carrying crabs shall have in their possession one of the following: a commercial fisherman's license, a wholesale/retail dealer's license or a transport license (30.00).

An operator of a soft shell crab shedding facility is required to obtain a soft shell crab shedder's license (100.00 for residents, 400.00 for nonresidents) unless they possess a wholesale/retail dealer license. A wholesale/retail dealer license is required if the soft crab shedder purchases premolt or buster crabs from commercial fishermen.

Reporting Requirements

A commercial crab fisherman with a fresh products license must file a monthly submission report.

A soft shell crab shedder who has only the soft crab shedder's license shall on or before the tenth of each month file a report to the Department detailing the quantity and prices of premolt or buster crabs acquired and soft shell crabs sold.

Any wholesale or retail dealer buying crabs from a licensed commercial fisherman must record the sale on a three-part receipt form containing information requested by the Department.

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