Scent: The Key to Successful Crabbing!

By | 08/01/2012

One of the greatest things about living near coastal waters is enjoying the world-renowned delicacy that is dungeness crab. However, the tasty crustacean is highly sought-after and those anglers that fish the best bait are, more often than not, the ones who will be enjoying a crab dinner!

With any type of bait fishing, establishing a long-lasting scent trail quickly and dependably is a key to success. The bait’s natural lipids, also known as “fats” or “oils” is the most significant element to forming a scent trail as water cannot mix with any type of oil. This resistance to mixing -and therefore diluting- makes oily baits the most desirable and effective for most if not all types of fishing. Next time you watch The Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch”, take a close look at what the professionals bait their pots with: A one-two punch of “broadcast” and “hanging” baits.

The Bering Sea crab fishermen use a combination of ground, frozen herring which quickly spreads a scent (the “broadcast” component) and a whole cod which gives the crab something to eat (the “hanging” component). The “broadcast” portion rings the dinner bell making your gear easier for the crabs to find. The “hanging” portion of the bait keeps the crab in our pots longer. Make no mistake, when there is no bait or scent, crabs will find a way out of your pots!


Lurking in the deepest part of most fishermen’s freezers is undoubtedly some old bait herring, sardines or even salmon eggs which is a bit on the freezer burnt side and no longer suitable for use as effective fishing bait.
Pautzke Crab & Shrimp Fuel to the rescue! The oils and semi-solids in Pautzke Crab & Shrimp Fuel can replace most if not all of what the freezer removed and then some! The trick to making an effective, long-lasting scent trail from old bait is maximizing it’s surface area… which is a fancy way of saying that we’re grinding it up! Grinding the bait serves the dual purpose of getting the oils from within the frozen bait out to the surface and giving the Pautzke Crab & Shrimp Fuel something porous to soak in to.

We’re turning our bait into a fine grind and adding Pautzke Crab & Shrimp Fuel to the mix, so we have to use something that will keep the mixture from washing away too quickly…


Grind your “freezer fodder” into the bait jugs, filling them half to 3/4 full of the ground bait. You want to leave space in the bait jug to allow water to mix within the cup and slowly release the scent trail.


After the grinding you can add Pautzke Crab & Shrimp Fuel immediately to the jug, or wait until you are ready to drop the pot in your location of choice!


The crab bait “one-two punch” is Pautzke Crab & Shrimp Fuel soaked ground bait and a “hanging bait” of fish scraps or chicken parts which allow the crab a little something to grind on while they wait for you to pull the pot!


Here’s the “after” shot of the baited Stearns nesting crab pot above after a several hour soak in a very heavily fished crabbing area in Puget Sound.


Taking the extra effort to prepare your bait a few minutes ahead of your crabbing trip is well worth it! When you consider the time and cost of simply running your boat out to the crab grounds, the cost of bait is small potatoes and the wrong place to try and save a buck. If you try a Pautzke Crab & Shrimp Fuel spiked bait mixture on your next crabbing trip, I’m willing to guess that you’ll have the same results I’ve enjoyed and several crab dinners that your friends and family will enjoy even more!

To learn more about Nelson’s saltwater expertise catch him on Saturday morning on ESPN Radio 710’s The Outdoor Line in Seattle or visit