Crab Cart

Cart (also referred to as crab cart) is a sea fishing bait made up from the insides of a brown crab, a species also referred to as the edible crab. Cart is seen as an extremely effective all-round bait for sea fishing and is especially good for catching big winter cod. A favourite with anglers across North East England and North Yorkshire, cart is disliked by some anglers as it can prove difficult to use and attach to the hook due to its soft texture. This has led anglers to develop some fairly unusual methods to use cart as a bait (more on this below), with many believing the results that cart achieves make the fuss and hassle of using this bait worthwhile.

What Exactly is Cart?

Brown Crab
A brown crab, the species which is used to make cart.

Many anglers unfamiliar with this bait are unsure about what exactly it is. To put it simply it is the innards of an edible crab which have been removed and frozen and then used as a sea fishing bait. All of the insides of a crab can be used as cart, apart from the gills (often referred to as dead man’s fingers) which are removed and discarded. However, many anglers believe that it is the eggs inside of female crabs, known as coral, which make cart such an effective bait. For this reason, cart which has a high level of the bright orange coral will be highly valued by anglers, although many anglers still get good results using cart which has little to no coral in it.

Procuring Cart: Make Your Own or Ready Made?

As brown crabs are hard to come by on the shore most anglers looking to make cart themselves buy edible crabs from a fishmonger. It is important that any brown crabs purchased to make into cart are very fresh and preferably still alive when the angler receives them, as crabs which have been dead for any length of time will make a substandard cart bait as crabs decline very quickly in quality once they die. While reputable seafood sellers will only sell crabs above the legal size limit, anglers should still always check that the crabs they are purchasing are above the minimum size limit (which can vary from area to area), as it is an offence to be in possession of undersized brown crab.

The first step of making cart is to remove the claws of the crab (they are highly rated as food) and then and remove and discard the legs. The body is them broken open and any excess water drained away. This is important as any additional water or liquid from the crab will make the cart runny and watery and therefore less effective as a bit. The innards and coral are scooped out and can be placed onto kitchen roll or a towel to soak up the excel water. Once the innards of all of the crabs have been removed they will be in the form of a thick paste-like substance. This can then be frozen for future use. Some anglers freeze the cart in a shallow tray, whereas other anglers prefer to freeze bait-sized portions wrapped in cling film.

Frozen Cart
Individuals portions of cart wrapped in cling film and ready to be frozen.

An alternative to this is to buy cart which is already frozen. Most fishing tackle shops and online bait retailers sell frozen cart although the availability can vary if brown crabs are in short supply. This can be supplied in various sizes of frozen blocks (which will need to be split into smaller sections to use) or in individual portions.

Most anglers using cart bait will put individual portions into a thermos flask or cool box to keep them frozen until they are needed during a fishing session. This is important as cart becomes a sloppy, smelly mess if it becomes defrosted and will end up unusable as bait.

Bait Presentation

RS Cart Bait
Cart combined with black lugworm in a cocktail bait.

Many anglers find cart a messy bait and it can be something of a challenge to present this bait well, and due to its soft nature some anglers even find it difficult to keep cart baits on the hook during a cast, even if large amounts of bait cotton or bait elastic are used. For this reason there are a wide range of methods which have been tested by anglers to try and use cart effectively. These are usually based around wrapping cart in some kind of casing which will keep it together when being cast out, but also allow the juices and scents to escape and attract fish. Anglers have experimented with using the gutted body of a squid, cling film, netting, tea bags, gauze bandages, sausage casing and even women’s tights as materials to contain cart inside when it is used as a fishing bait. It is up to individual anglers to work out which method works best for them when using cart, and the additional effort of having to prepare this bait are something anglers should bear in mind, especially as it may have to be done in very cold weather with freezing hands.

Is Cart Banned?

There is no national ban on using cart as a bait, but in some regions of the UK by-laws have been passed to ban the use of edible crab as a sea fishing bait. These bans include using any part of the crab as a bait, including crab “offal” which means that cart would be covered by the ban. When bans are in place they cover both sea anglers and commercial fishermen (who may use edible crabs as bait in pots). It is up to anglers to check that the use of edible crab is permitted in the area they are fishing in order to ensure that they stay on the right side of the law.