Insider Secrets on How to Catch Sand Fleas

What Is Sand Fleas?

Normally, sand fleas are not big in size. Most of them measure a half inch up to an inch long. The males grow up to 2 inches long while the females only grow up to ¾ inches long. Sand fleas, also known as mole crabs, have five sets of limbs under their stomach that they use to propel themselves under water. The mole crabs also use their ‘limbs’ to make holes on soft sand. Due to their elusive nature, there are no standards guides on how to catch sand fleas.


These creatures are known to be some of the few creatures that can travel backwards and forwards. The Sand fleas will not move when put in dry sand but can walk on wet sand as they find their way back to the water. Although most crabs have claws, the sand flea does not. Like fish, these crabs have gills that they use for breathing. They must live in oxygenated water to survive.

Sand Fleas

However, mole crabs can survive out of the water for a couple of hours, even days. Their survival out of the water will greatly depend on the temperature of the environment they are in and whether or not their gills dry off. Mole crabs have crab’s Telson on their underbellies. The telson, also known as the ‘digger serves various functions including:

  • It protects the mole crab’s underbelly, which is very soft.
  • It is used for burrowing into sand, which is a common activity for sand fleas.
  • The telson secures the sand flea after digging.

Pregnant mole crabs have hundreds of brightly colored eggs underneath their telsons. In a single reproductive season, which runs from February to October, one female mole crab can lay one clutch of 50-45,000 eggs per month. The eggs take around 30 days to develop. The eggs will change color to brown before they hatch.

Sand Flea Habitat

Studies indicate that sand flea eggs usually hatch after sunset and when the tide is high. The young mole crabs drift in the seas for about 3 to 6 months and go through a number of development stages while at sea. The larvae are washed up unto different beaches around March when they are in their juvenile stage.

At this stage, the sand fleas measure around ¼ inches long and are labeled recruits’ by biologists. The recruits join the older sand fleas in the sand near the shores, where the older sand fleas have been spending the winter with their heads buried deep.

Sand Flea Habitat

Mole crabs are normally found on beaches. The mole crab, also known as sand flea is not really a flea and cannot hurt you in any way. Sand fleas do not have claws and cannot bite. The mole crab is also referred to as a Sand Fiddler, Sand Grab, Sand Bugs, or Beach flea in some parts of America. A sand flea is a type of crab that lives in beach shores and wet sands.

Sand Flea Habitat

Mole crabs exist in more than 10 different species. These species are found on beaches all over the world. These crabs normally form colonies in the ‘swash zone’ of beaches in late March or Early April. The sand fleas usually remain slightly buried under the wet sand as the waves race up and down the beach.

If you want to catch a sand flea, stand at the shore and look down the beach to spot where water is running off the beach. When you see the tell tale Vs in the sand, run to the dry sand over them and wait for another wave.

Take a scoop through the colony as the waves go out. You can also use a sand flea rake to get the mole crabs. The sand flea rake is simply a shatterproof wire basket fixed to the end of a handle.

Sand Flea Habitat

If you want to hook a mole crab, slip the point up from the bottom end and out through the upper side of the shell. You can keep a sand flea for a few days. Ensure that they are kept damp and cool to stay alive. Store them in a container with some damp sand if you are at the beach. Put the sun out by placing a wet piece of cloth or towel over the container. Use fresh seawater to rinse the sand after every hour.

You can get the sand fleas home safely by carrying them in a container, in between some damp newspapers. At home, store them in the refrigerator or in a cooler box with enough ice. It is important to note that you will have to rinse the newspaper daily. Freeze them after a few days.

There are two ways you can use to freeze the sand fleas:

  • Leave them to scald in boiling water for about 10 seconds then put them in a freezer bag.
  • Alternatively, you can put the sand fleas in a freezer bag with a combination of baking powder and salt in equal measures. Then store the bag in the freezer.

Catching sand fleas is a bit challenging. Note that the mole crabs will not always be in the colonies. Sand fleas usually move a lot in the waves. They are often carried by the current and dispersed in various beaches.

At times, sand fleas move out of their colonies into scattered patches of sand fleas. This means that you have to go wading through them. Look for the mole crabs in soft and waterlogged sand.

Sand Flea Habitat

The “LIP"

The mole crabs are also found in the ‘Lip’. Lip is the area where waves stop moving down the beach. The lip stays under water all the time. Do not forget to look up and down the beach because sand fleas tend to migrate constantly. Most of them move up the shores when the tide comes while others move towards the sea as the tides fade away.

One scoop can get you 4 to 5 smaller sand fleas dangling on a bigger one. These are often smaller males attracted to a bigger female.

How To Store Sand Fleas

It is important to store sand fleas under the right conditions after catching them to eliminate the risk of death. Sand fleas are popular fishing baits for pompano, redfish, and sheepshead. However, they are quite delicate and require proper care and storage of you intend to use them as bait on your next pompano fishing expedition. Keeping these little creatures alive for fishing or presentation requires a thoughtful approach.

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Last update on 2022-08-15 at 09:46 PST - Details

Fill a plastic container halfway with coquina consisting of tiny shells and shell fragments. Place the sand fleas you have caught on top of the coquina so that they can burrow in as they do on sand. The main function of the coquina is to absorb wastes from the sand fleas. Coquina is loosely compacted unlike beach sand, which is much denser and can kill the little crabs if it mixes with their wastes.

Although coquina helps to absorb wastes from the sand fleas, it is important to pat it with paper towel to minimize moisture. If you intend to use the coquina for multiple fishing trips, remove the sand fleas and dry the coquina by placing it in the microwave for about twenty minutes. Allow the coquina to cool before putting in the sand fleas.

Shells on the beach

If you are unable to find actual coquina, scrape up enough from the beach and mix it up with sand. This mixture has the same absorbent properties as coquina.

Tips On Catching Sand Fleas For Bait

market on the beach

Sand fleas are found in various beaches all around the world. These creatures look like crabs and are often used as bait for catching various fish species. Although you can buy live or frozen sand fleas for your angling trips, it is as easy to catch your own sand fleas on the beach and use them as bait. Contrary to the common misconception, sand fleas do not have claws and will not bite.

The most common food for sand fleas are planktons and organic matter on the beaches. You can easily find sand fleas in the intertidal zone. Follow these tips to catch sand fleas for bait.

morning beach

Being sensitive creatures, sand fleas often remain buried deep in the sand, especially when they feel threatened or when they sense the foot pressure of human beings or other animals. Therefore, the best time to catch sand fleas is early in the morning when there are few people walking on the beaches.

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Last update on 2022-08-15 at 09:46 PST - Details

I often use the sand flea rake to catch mole crabs. This rake has a simple design and is quite effective in collecting the creatures from underground. However, I have also successfully caught sand fleas simply by scooping the sand at the right time and place.

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Last update on 2022-08-15 at 09:47 PST - Details

Walk along the beach and look for signs of sand fleas including dark sand particles or clusters on top of the normal beach sand. This type of sand is usually excavated by the sand fleas as they burrow and is the one that forms the boundary between the top beach sand and the sand underneath. In addition, be on the lookout for sand flea antennas protruding from the ground. Consider carrying a cooler, especially if you intend to collect a significant number of sand fleas.

There are various techniques for catching sand fleas!

Please share your technique on the comments section. Some of your friends might also find this article useful as well so don’t hesitate to share it on social networks.

Lucas Bryant

Hi, I’m Lucas Bryant and fishing is one of the most important parts of my life. I usually go fishing with my friends and have many fishing competition. That why I like to research and create many tips to get more fishes to win a race. I hope my experience will be useful for you.

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