Crabbing in North Norfolk

August 20, 2019 4 Comments
Crabbing in North Norfolk featured image

Crabbing is a traditional and popular North Norfolk family pastime. After some research and lots of experience of crabbing with the kids this Summer (it was on our Ultimate Bucket List for Visiting North Norfolk), I have come up with the best places to go, step by step instructions and our top tips for a successful crabbing trip with the kids in this beautiful part of East Anglia.

Crabbing or Gillying as it is often referred to locally, is extremely popular and not just with families. Whilst the activity itself is not confined to North Norfolk, the area lends itself well to crabbing as there are lots of suitable spots for families to give it a go.

The famous edible Cromer Crabs come from the area, which are particularly sweet and succlent thanks to feeding off the worlds longest chalk reef. However, it is very unlikley that you will catch one of these delicious creatures, and likely you will catch the smaller Common Shore Crabs. These are not edible and should be treated nicely until safely placed back in the sea.

So if you are planning a trip to North Norfolk and would like to have a go at crabbing read on or pin it for later!

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Where To Go Crabbing In North Norfolk

As mentioned before there are lots of suitable crabbing spots. Our favourites include Wells-Next-The-Sea Quay, Cromer Pier and Blakeney Quay. There are lots other areas as well which we have yet to visit, but check out the Visit North Norfolk website for other locations.

Two boys crabbing off the side of cromer pier
Crabbing off of Cromer Pier

Our favourite and most successful was Wells-next-the-sea. Cromer Pier was definetly the busiest, but possibly the most difficult as it can be a long way down from the pier.

Crabbing at Wells-next-the-sea Quay
Crabbing at Wells-Next-The-Sea

Step By Step Instructions of How to Go Crabbing

In order to go crabbing you will need:

  • A crabbing line or net
  • A weight
  • Bait bag
  • Bucket half filled with some salt water
  • Some crab bait (see later for bait recommendations).
standard crabbing line
Standard crabbing line with weight and 2 bait bags

Most of the local souveneir shops will sell everything that you need, so don’t panic about not having anything before you go. It’s very simple!

  1. Make sure your line or net is well weighted (most come with a weight already attached, but a couple of rocks may come in handy).
  2. Fill your bait bag with your chosen crab treat.
  3. Throw your net or end of your line into the water. You want to make sure you have enough line loose for the weight to reach the bottom and don’t let go of the other end!! (Yes this did happen to us!).
  4. Then you wait. If you have a line you are waiting for a little tug, if you have a net you just have to wait a bit (about 5 minutes), then pull it up to see if you have been successful.
  5. If you have successfully caught a crab, then carefully transfer it to your bucket of salt water.
  6. Once you have finished and have had enough of crabbing, return your crabs to the water at land level. Gently tipping the bucket so they can return to the sea safely. DO NOT throw crabs into the sea.
Crab with a 'seaweed' hair stylr
This little fella had a cool seaweed hair style!

Our Top Tips For Crabbing In North Norfolk

  • Crabbing is easier and possibly more successful to do at high tide. So check the tide times before you plan your crabbing trip.
  • Do not use hooks at all. Not only could it hurt the crabs but it also poses a risk to other wildlife.
  • Fill your bucket with local sea water from the beach or land level before you find your perfect crabbing spot. It’s a long walk from the end of Cromer pier to the beach if you have forgotten to do this. Don’t be tempted to fill it from the taps as crabs can’t survive in tap water.
  • If you have really little ones you may want to restrict them from hanging over the edge of the quays by giving them another job like looking after the crabs in the buckets, counting them and giving them names. You may also choose to fit them with buoyancy aids for extra safety.
  • Although some people see it as cheating, using a net is a lot easier, and we found more successful. Especially if you are crabbing off the pier or at low tide as it’s quite a way to pull up a crab on a line. Not only can it be more rewarding, but it means less crabs falling off lines and potentially hurting themselves.
A Crab caught  in a net
Our first crab!
  • If you do decide to crab with a line, pull the line up extremely slowly and carefully, you don’t want Mr. Crabby losing his grip.
  • If you are crabbing off the pier, especially if it’s windy, make sure your net is well weighted (you may need to find some extra rocks), and crab off the side of the pier in the direction the wind is blowing not facing it. Lots of nets get tangled up in the pier itself as the wind off the North Sea can be strong.
  • Do not overload your bucket with crabs. Not only can it stress them, but it can also cause them to fight. It can be a good idea to have more than one bucket so you can seprate the smaller ones from the larger ones, and don’t forget to save some bait to give them some food whilst they are chilling out in your bucket.
  • Tie the other end of your line to the railings. That way you can never lose your line/net. Particularly useful if your children are a little older like mine and want to throw the net in themselves (although it was actually Daddy that lost ours!).
  • Bait wise bacon, fish especialy fish heads and frozen squid make good choices. If you visit the local butcher or fishmonger they often sell little crab bait packs. We bought a bag of bacon offcuts from the butchers at Wells for £1, but be warned in holiday time they sell out fast.
  • If you want or need to pick up one of your crabs, carefully hold them at the back of their shell. They will pinch you if they can and it hurts!
Oliver holding a crab
My brave boy picking up a crab!
  • Most of all have fun, and enjoy it! If you find you are a dab hand at it then you couuld always enter the World Pier Crabbing Championships at Cromer Pier which is held on the August bank holiday weekend!

Have you been crabbing before? I’d love to hear your stories and other great places in the UK where you can go, leave me a note in the comments

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post and have an interest in this area, dont forget to sign up to our newsletter so you can keep up with our adventures!

Kerry x

For More information about Visiting North Norfolk visit…….


  • Karen, the next best thing to mummy August 30, 2019 at 9:29 am

    That’s a lot of large crabs#kidsandkreativity@_karendennis

  • Ella @ Typical Mummy August 30, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    Oooh fabulous! We keep meaning to go crabbing off Beaumaris Pier every time we’re on Anglesey but have never got round to it. When we eventually do I’ll definitely be looking back at this post for tips! #KidsandKreativity

  • Naomi September 8, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    Wow what a great idea! I’d love to do this. #kidsandkreativity

  • Emma September 9, 2019 at 10:17 am

    Oh my goodness I love crabbing, so many happy memories from my childhood spending our holidays in Pembrokeshire. Its something we love doing with our boys too, we had a particularly impressive haul from Conwy Harbour. Great post #KidsandKreativity

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    About Me

    About Me

    Hi I'm Kerry, Wife to James, Step Mum to one, Mum to two and more fur, feather and winged babies than I can count. I have a passion for crafts, encouraging creativity and inspiring imagination especially in children. So if you are looking for some inspiration, ideas and resources to inject a little creativity into your family life, then you've come to the right place. Read More


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