Monday, 27 January 2014

Kayak Fishing for Shellfish

For some time now, I have thought how great it would be to use the kayak to occasionally fish for shellfish as opposed to just fish.  Initially, I thought about buying a commercial shrimp and crab pot however, I soon realised on a kayak there could be potential problems.  The weight of the pots could make it difficult to pull up and the size could be a storage problem.

I wanted two pots, one for shrimps, and one suitable for lobsters, velvet swimming crabs, and larger crabs such as brown crabs and spider crabs.

For shrimps, I needed a pot with small entrance holes of about an inch.  This would ensure crabs would not enter the pot and make a meal of the shrimps!  Searching the internet, I came across an Eagle Claw Minnow Trap.

Although advertised as a minnow trap, the two entrance holes are only 1" diameter therefore, ideal for shrimps.  The pot is lightweight and measures only 16" x 9" therefore, no problem to carry on the kayak.  It has two equal halves that clip together held by a sprung clip.  Baiting up would be a matter of releasing the clip, and inserting the bait into a mesh bag or stocking.

To make sure the shrimps cannot crawl up the inside of the mesh and find their way out, I cut the tops of a couple of plastic salad dressing bottles and using the thread of the bottle, screwed into the entrance holes.  The thread holds it in place.  This should make it more difficult for the shrimps to find the entrance holes and escape.

With the addition of a piece of cord, an SMB divers reel, a marker buoy, and a couple of weights, the shrimp pot was ready to go.

My biggest dilemma was finding a suitable pot for lobsters or velvet swimming crabs but in particular, larger crabs.  The majority of hobby pots available are more suited to small crabs, or freshwater crayfish with entrance hole sizes to suit as shown below.

Although lightweight and collapsible, the entrance holes on this pot are only 6cm, which would be fine for velvet swimming crabs and possibly lobsters but not edible brown crabs and spider crabs.

Commercial crab pots have much larger entrance holes of about 20cm however; they are much too heavy and bulky to manage on a kayak.

Eventually, I came across a collapsible pot supplied by Castnets.

This trap has a full width walk in one-way soft entrance measuring 55cm x 35cm at both ends therefore, no problem with the entrance being too small for larger crabs.

The pot is not small, the collapsed measurements are 109cm x 55cm x 35cm however, I found it no problem to store on the kayak.  I can position it behind my seat secured with a piece of bungee cord and a carbine hook.

The weight is about 2kg, which is about the same as my anchor with chain therefore, no problem to haul up from the depths.  Of course, in the unlikely event that I may fill the pot with sweet spider crabs, there should be no problem hauling the pot up with a few crabs inside.

Once again, with the addition of an SMB divers reel, a marker buoy, and a couple of weights, the crab pot was ready to go.

The next step was to work out how and when to set the traps from the kayak. I could paddle out, set the traps, leave them for a day, and come back to pick them up but I did not really want the hassle and the commitment. For me, it would be far more convenient to set the traps when I planned to go out fishing for the day and collect on the way in.

In addition, I needed to learn the habitat of the species I was targeting.  There is a great video on YouTube produced by Seafish that gives an insight into UK commercial shellfish fishing with plenty of useful information on the various species.

Before actually using the traps, I wanted to check with the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority any rules that may apply to non-commercial shellfish anglers.  Although there is no limit to the number of pots a hobby angler can use there are regulations as follows:
  • There are the usual minimum size limits
  • A maximum of two fish per day can be landed from the following species: lobster, crawfish, edible crab, or spider crab.
A maximum of two fish could be two lobsters, or one lobster and one edible crab, or one edible crab and one spider crab etc.

Additional rules apply to lobster and crawfish (spiny lobster) as shown on the minimum size limit chart as follows:
  • The removal of berried lobsters and crawfish is prohibited.
  • V-notched lobsters and crawfish must be returned, and any with a tail flap which is missing or mutilated unless specific permission has been granted by Cornwall IFCA.
This year each time I go out fishing for the day, I will be taking the pots with me and will post later on their success or failure. Apart from the possibility of adding shellfish to the dinner table, collecting the pots after fishing will be an exciting added interest to the day.

Update June 2014:

Since writing the above post I have experimented with the pots and below is a video about kayak fishing for shellfish.


  1. Hi, I had originally planned to set a lobster pot and free dive down to empty it, but using the fold-able crab trap seems like a much better idea. - have you had any luck with it yet?

    1. To date I have caught an Edible Crab however it was undersized and returned. Also had velvet-swimming crabs, which are delicious and surprisingly meaty and I can understand why there is a demand for them abroad. Due to the awful weather, Jan and Feb trips have been limited. Once I have gathered more material I will publish more on shellfish fishing probably later in the year when the season gets going.

  2. Have you had any luck with your trap yet?
    I've just bought one the same as the collapsable one in your pictures but in a new super size version which it says has 16cm holes but mine are more like 18cm. Seems very good for a tenner off eBay. Hopefully that will be big enough to let a reasonable sized crab or lobster in. If I weight the bottom of it so it always lands the same way up I should be able to flatten the entrance rings a bit to get them slightly wider. They would be quite easy to replace with a bigger ring too. The smaller models do seem too small for catching anything but bait. I'll be trying it out on my holiday in Northumberland next week. Cheers, Chris.

    1. Hi Chris. I regularly catch spider crab and have caught brown crab big enough to take. However, that is using the bigger trap and I also found another trap which I did a video about and you can see it hear:

      The smaller trap you refer will only catch shore crabs and velvet crab due to the size of the entrance holes and the pot you found with a large entrance hole would be more suitable. Have a look at the video I made. Rob

  3. Hi Rob, how did the shrimp pot work out? Did you catch any? Is it worth it?
    Thanks, Graham

  4. Hi Graham. The shrimp pot does catch shrimps but you need to leave it out for a few nights to catch enough shrimps to make it worth while. I mainly put the crab pots out now as they are more productive but occasionally put the shrimp pot out as well. Rob.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.