Sand Fleas on 'Deadliest Catch': What Are They?

What are sand fleas on 'Deadliest Catch'? Fans have heard about them for years and they can be found in a few key areas in the U.S.

Chrissy Bobic - Author

Jul. 26 2022, Published 12:22 p.m. ET

The fishermen on Deadliest Catch are up against a lot. Not only do they have to deal with rough conditions at sea, but they often have to contend with sand fleas too. But what are sand fleas, you ask? Despite the name, they aren't small insects that bug beach dwellers as they sunbathe.

Instead, they're a huge nuisance for the team on Deadliest Catch. And if you've been with the show since the beginning, you might have heard of them before.

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If you haven't heard the name sand fleas on Deadliest Catch, then maybe you've heard the cast refer to them as sea lice. Either way, while sand fleas can be helpful as bait in some instances, other times they make catching some fish and crabs quite challenging. The latter is what the cast has faced on the show.

Captain Wild Bill from 'Deadliest Catch'
Source: Discovery

Captain Wild Bill from 'Deadliest Catch.'

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So, what are sand fleas on 'Deadliest Catch'?

Sand fleas, which are also called mole crabs, are tiny crab-like crustaceans that also resemble a beetle. They burrow in the sand, eat shrimp, and also attach themselves to different kinds of fish. They can be used for bait if you're looking to catch fish like the pompano, sheepshead, and redfish. But for the folks on Deadliest Catch, sand fleas provide a bit of a problem.

Over the years on the show, viewers have seen sand fleas be the downfall of crab hauls. Back in Season 7, for example, one of the crews found a handful of sand fleas at the bottom of a crab trap and learned that the sand fleas ate most of the crab bait, thereby dwindling down that day's catch in a few different traps.

Sand fleas are attracted to shrimp and they often eat hanging shrimp bait. And if there's no bait in a crab pot, then crabs won't go in.

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Can you eat the sand fleas from 'Deadliest Catch'?

While sand fleas make for great bait themselves, they are also eaten in some parts of the world. According to, sand fleas are cooked and eaten despite the fact that they are considered larvae and they contain some bacteria. The website explains that you need to cook them properly to get rid of the parasites they may carry.

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In order to do that, you should wash them by hand and then boil them to further remove anything that may be harmful for consumption. Then, you can fry or batter and deep fry them and eat them. And in a reddit thread about sand fleas, or mole crabs, some redditors explained that they taste similar to soft shell crabs.

But, one reddit shared, "It's only worth it to eat the bigger ones. Take the main shell off, toss in a coating, and cook in butter. Top with a twist of lemon."

While we highly doubt the cast of Deadliest Catch wants to eat any of the sand fleas they come across, which make their job even harder, at least that possibility is a small upside to dealing with the critters.

Watch Deadliest Catch on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EST on Discovery.

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