When Are Maryland Blue Crabs In Season?
The peak season for iconic, blue, Rock Hall, Maryland, crabs is April through November. However, the biggest crabs are harvested from September to mid-November. So when you’re craving some fresh, delicious seafood, this is the time to visit our beautiful town.
- 1 What months are good for blue crabs?
- 2 What are the best months to eat crab?
- 3 Where are the most blue crabs found?
- 4 What months shouldn’t you eat seafood?
- 5 What time of year is crab cheapest?
- 6 What size blue crabs are best?
- 7 Does Blue Crab have a season?
- 8 What moon phase is best for crabbing?
- 9 What time of year do blue crabs have eggs?
What months are good for blue crabs?
When Is Crab Season? – The primary season for all crab species is October to January, when they are often at their largest and populations are highest after spawning. Some regions even stretch crabbing season into July. It depends on the area and specific type of crab to know when the season is and when crabs will be their freshest.
Some of the largest crab-producing states, like Alaska and Maine, start crab season in the fall, around October, and end it as temperatures start climbing in early spring. Some Southern states, such as Florida and South Carolina, have a year-round crab season. Some states have crabbing seasons during warmer months instead of winter when crabs are more dormant and inactive.
Maryland, for example, has a crabbing season that starts in April and ends in November. Jennifer Causey; Styling: Rachael Burrow
Are Maryland blue crabs plentiful this year?
Recent Progress: Decrease – Between 2021 and 2022, the abundance of adult (age 1+) female blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay decreased 39% from 158 million to 97 million. This number is lower than the target of 196 million, but above the 72.5 million threshold that is considered to be the minimum sustainable level for female blue crabs in the Bay.
Although it is well known that blue crab populations exhibit natural annual variability due to their biology and other environmental factors such as temperature, coastal currents, weather patterns, and predation, the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee (CBSAC) is interested in better understanding how these factors drive blue crab population dynamics.
CBSAC is in the process of identifying the key drivers to be addressed and will discuss how these factors might be incorporated into future stock assessments at a workshop in September 2022.
When can you get blue crabs in Maryland?
Technically speaking, the Maryland blue crab season starts in April and goes all the way to December. During the early and late season blue crabs need to be shipped from North Carolina and Louisiana since the crabs have retreated from the cold and headed to warmer waters.
What are the best months to eat crab?
Hard shells – The Maryland crab season starts in April and runs through December. But much of what is found in crab houses early in the season or in the winter is coming from North Carolina and Louisiana. Maryland crabs that are served in April and early May are typically ones that stayed north during the winter and dug themselves down into the mud.
What’s the best bait for blue crabs?
Blue Crab Tips – Regardless of which method you choose your goal is to put as many crabs as possible into your cooler as quickly as possible. Here are some tips to help you do just that.
- Bait – the two most popular baits are fish and chicken. Fish tends to attract more crabs, especially if it is oily, but chicken lasts longer. Almost any species or cut of chicken can be used but necks are preferred as they are both cheap and easy to secure. Some people prefer clams and they are especially suited for trotlines. Place the clams in a small mesh bag (4 or 5 is enough), give a few good whacks against something solid to break the shells and release more scent, tie the bag to the line/in your trap, and proceed as you would with any other bait.
- Location – crabs prefer shallow areas in bays, harbors, and estuaries. Around or under docks, piers and similar structures are especially productive. Many crabbers prefer a low tide, but this depends on access and local conditions. Regardless of the tide, almost everyone agrees that a moving tide is best.
- When – in most locations, late summer is the most productive period. Depending on where you are located this could start as early as late June and extend through September. If wading nighttime is more productive, however, crabs can be located and harvested at any time of day or night.
- Movement – blue crabs are fast and move laterally (left or right), which should help to identify the best spot to place your net when wading. When moving crabs can display amazing speed so be ready with the net.
- Know the regulations – almost every jurisdiction has enacted rules and regulations pertaining to crabbing. These rules generally cover season, creel limit, the minimum size of the crabs, number of devices permitted and whether or not females can be taken.
- If wading for crabs, be sure to take along a few pieces of bait, tear off small bits and drop into the water as you move. If you follow the same path on your return trip it is likely you will find crabs hunting for and eating the bait.
- Good luck and good crabbing!
- Check out this awesome video of us crabbing using trotlines this year, we had a ton of fun and ate like king and queens:
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What state produces the most blue crabs?
Louisiana fishery – Louisiana now has the world’s largest blue-crab fishery. Commercial harvests in the state account for over half of all landings in the Gulf of Mexico. The industry was not commercialized for interstate commerce until the 1990s, when supply markedly decreased in Maryland due to problems (see above) in Chesapeake Bay.
- Since then, Louisiana has steadily increased its harvest.
- In 2002, Louisiana harvested 22% of the nation’s blue crab.
- That number rose to 26% by 2009 and 28% by 2012.
- The vast majority of Louisiana crabs are shipped to Maryland, where they are sold as “Chesapeake” or “Maryland” crab.
- Louisiana’s harvest remained high in 2013, with 17,597 metric tons of blue crab valued at $51 million.
In addition to commercial harvesting, recreational crabbing is very popular along Louisiana’s coast.
Why are crabs so expensive in Maryland right now?
Known for their delicate and subtly sweet flavor, blue crabs are a perennial icon of Washington region seafood culture. But, for the last few summers, they’ve been more costly than ever before. Low harvests, escalating supply costs, and intense labor shortages help explain why.
Where are the most blue crabs found?
Description Also known as the Chesapeake blue crab or the Atlantic blue crab, these crabs are strong swimmers—largely due to their fifth pair of legs, which are shaped like paddles. They are striking to spot with their often bright-blue claws and olive-colored carapace (shell).
The claws on the adult female blue crab are tipped with red. Males can be seven to eight inches (18 to 20 centimeters) across, while females are a bit smaller in size. Range The blue crab is widely distributed along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, from Nova Scotia through the Gulf of Mexico and as far south as Uruguay.
It also has been introduced in other parts of the world. This crab inhabits estuaries and brackish coastal lagoons. Predators include the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and the whooping crane, Diet These crabs are predacious and scavenge for food. They have been known to eat other crustaceans (including their own species), recently dead fish, plant materials, clams, oysters, worms, insects, and mussels.
- Life History The blue crab’s mating season occurs between May and October.
- A male will mate with a female after she has completed her final molt, and she has a soft shell.
- The female will lay up to two million eggs in a spongy mass that starts off an orange color, but gets closer to black as it comes time for the crabs to hatch.
Blue crabs undergo several different developmental stages to reach adulthood. A blue crab’s typical lifespan is between three and four years. Conservation Blue crabs are not threatened or endangered. However, habitat loss and nutrient loading are some of the larger issues faced by this species.
- In addition, recent reports have shown that blue crabs are projected to be detrimentally impacted by climate change in a way that can also wreak havoc on sensitive ecosystems that the blue crab calls home.
- Carbon pollution from burning coal, oil, and gas is causing climate change that is threatening fish and wildlife across the globe.
If we don’t make changes soon, the earth will continue to have warmer temperatures in all seasons; an increase in the frequency, duration, and intensity of hurricanes and other severe weather events ; as well as an increase in the sea level of up to two feet or more.
A Threatened Bay The Chesapeake Bay is our nation’s largest estuary and sustains more than 3,600 species of plants and animals. However, if global climate change continues unabated, projected rising sea levels and water and air temperatures will significantly reshape the region’s coastal landscape, threatening recreational and commercial fishing including crabbing in the region.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay Office, the bay shoreline is being affected at a faster rate than the global average because land in the region is already naturally subsiding. The temperatures in the bay have already increased by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1960 and are projected to continue to increase by an additional 3 to 10 degrees by 2100—an immense change that will have a dramatic effect on the estuary and the species it supports.
Warming temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay are predicted to also greatly impact eelgrass, a seagrass that provides essential habitat for juvenile blue crabs. This impact was seen in 2005, as high Chesapeake temperatures caused a massive die-off of the seagrass. Blue Crabs in the Gulf Aside from their ecological importance, blue crabs are one of the most economically important fisheries of the Gulf.
Louisiana alone lands approximately 26 percent of the total blue crabs for the nation, a value of more than $135 million at today’s market prices. A decline in blue crabs could have larger economic implications for recreational fishing and tourism on the Gulf Coast.
Using the money from BP’s oil spill fines to stop coastal wetlands loss and protect habitats for blue crabs will have a positive impact on the entire food web of the Gulf of Mexico—and the Gulf Coast economy as well. Predator Meets Prey Increased carbon pollution is expected to cause blue crabs to grow abnormally large shells, turning this species into larger, more aggressive predators that could significantly alter the fragile Chesapeake ecosystem.
Their main prey, like oysters, are expected to suffer from weaker, slower-growing shells due to acidic water conditions caused by the ocean absorbing more carbon dioxide. The larger, hungrier blue crabs will have the ability to eat many more oysters, potentially throwing the whole food chain out of whack.
- This shift in the predator-prey balance would harm efforts to rebuild the stocks of both species.
- Impacts to Economy Although climate change is expected to lead to abnormally large blue crab shells, this does not mean the crab harvest will do well or that crab lovers will benefit.
- This is because studies have shown that the same conditions that lead to increased growth in crab shells also resulted in the production of less meat under those shells.
As carbon-absorbing crabs put more energy into building larger shells, less energy goes into other critical life processes like tissue growth and reproduction. Fun Fact The blue crab’s scientific name, Callinectes sapidus, means “beautiful savory swimmer.” Sources Chesapeake Bay Program Life in the Chesapeake Bay by Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L.
How old is a 5 inch blue crab?
Zoeal stage To understand the blue crab life cycle, we will follow a female blue crab from birth to reproduction. The blue crab starts her life as a larva, an early-life stage that looks completely different than her adult form. She will spend 31-49 days going through seven larval stages called zoea.
- In each stage she is similar in appearance, but is slightly larger than in the last stage.
- Even this early in life, crabs have a hard outer shell (exoskeleton).
- In order to grow and change stages, the larva must molt, which means shed or cast off its shell.
- During molting, the exoskeleton splits, and the soft-bodied larva backs out of the hard shell.
The animal remains soft for a short while, and swells up by absorbing water. Then, minerals from the seawater (especially calcium) harden the outer covering, forming a new exoskeleton. When the larva loses the extra water, it shrinks and leaves space within the exoskeleton for growth. The megalopa takes advantage of tidal currents to move into estuaries where salinity is lower, food is abundant, and shelter is easy to find. There, she molts to a true crab form, but is only 2 mm wide (about twice the width of a paper clip wire). As a juvenile, she is omnivorous, meaning she will eat both animal and vegetable substances, such as fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants.
- She also must avoid predators such as spotted sea trout, red drum, black drum, sheepshead, and other crabs.
- She continues to molt, growing larger each time until she reaches adult size (about 130-139 mm or 5¼ – 5½ in.) after 18-20 molts.
- The amount of growth with each molt varies depending on water salinity, temperature, and other environmental factors.
She should reach harvestable size (127 mm or 5 in.) within one year. Molting blue crab During her adult life, the female blue crab remains in the estuary, although usually in higher salinity water than males. She eats fish, crustaceans, worms, and mollusks, and may be preyed upon by large fish, birds, and mammals (including humans). Male holding immature female Sometime between March and December, when temperatures exceed 22 o C (72 o F), the female crab moves into the upper waters of the estuary where male crabs are concentrated. Most female blue crabs reach a terminal molt, after which they no longer grow.
- This molt coincides with the onset of sexual maturity when mating occurs.
- Evidence suggests that some females molt a second time after becoming mature, allowing them to produce more batches of offspring,
- Because of the hard exoskeleton, mating must occur directly after a molt, while the female is still soft.
To ensure he will be there when she is ready, a male will usually cradle a pre-molt female in his legs. He also protects her during the vulnerable period after she molts, until her shell becomes hard again. After mating, the female moves offshore into higher salinity water while the male remains in the estuary for the rest of his life. Overgeous (egg-bearing) female blue crab The female can retain sperm for a year or more before extruding eggs. This allows crabs mating in fall or winter to wait until warmer weather to hatch their eggs. Eggs are fertilized as they pass out of the crab’s body and are deposited under the apron.
- The apron is actually the curled-under abdomen, and has small appendages to which the eggs attach.
- Egg masses have an average of two million eggs, and can have up to eight million eggs.
- At first the egg mass appears orange due to the high amount of yolk in each egg, then turns brown as yolk is consumed and eyes develop.
After one to two weeks the eggs hatch into zoea larvae. Thus the cycle of life is complete. Only one out of every one million (0.0001%) eggs survives to become an adult. Predators, adverse environmental conditions, and disease all take their toll on the millions of larvae that hatch from one female.
- Yet some do survive, enough to renew the population and start a new generation of blue crabs.
- References: Hines, A., P.R.
- Jivoff, P.J.
- Bushmann, J.
- Montfrans, S.A.
- Reed, D.J.
- Wolcott, and T.G.
- Evidence for sperm limitation in the blue crab Callinectes sapidus,
- Bulletin of Marine Science, 72 (2): 287-310.
Lipcius, R.N. and W.T. Stockhausen.2002. Concurrent decline in the spawning stock, recruitment, and larval abundance, and size of the blue crab Callinectes sapidus in Chesapeake Bay. Marine Ecology Progress Series 226:45-61. Puckett B.J. and D.H. Secor.2006.
- Growth and Recruitment of Juvenile Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab.
- Technical Report Series No.
- TS-497-05-CBL Ref. No.
- CBL 05-095 of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
- Steele, P.1982.
- A synopsis of the biology of the blue crab Callinectes sapidus Rathbun in Florida, Pp.29-35. In: H.M.
- Perry and W.A.
Van Engle, eds. Proc. Blue Crab Colloq., Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission Publication No.7. Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Steele, P.1991. Population dynamics and migration of the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus (Rathbun), in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico,
- Procedures of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute 40:241-244.
- Steele, P. and T.M.
- Population ecology of the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus Rathbun, in a subtropical estuary: population structure, aspects of reproduction, and habitat partitioning,
- Florida Marine Research Publications 54:1-24.
Turner, H.V., D.L. Wolcott, T.G. Wolcott and A.H. Hines.2003. Post-mating behavior, intra-molt growth and onset of migration to Chesapeake Bay spawning grounds by adult female blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus Rathbun. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 295: 107-130.
What state has the best crab?
Baltimore, Maryland – Without a doubt, the number one place for crab in the U.S. is Baltimore. This seaside town takes its blue crab seriously, with steamed crustaceans being one of the oldest traditions in the city. You’ll be expected to get raw and gritty when it comes to feasting on the whole crabs in Baltimore, so have no shame in cracking these blue crabs open and chowing down on some of the best in the country. (Image: used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)
What months shouldn’t you eat seafood?
Do you know about the ‘shellfish when there is an ‘R’ in the month’ rule? – There’s a long-accepted old wives’ tale that we should only eat shellfish when there’s an ‘R’ in the month. According to the rule, we should only indulge indulge in delicious oysters, clams, and mussels from September through to April and stop eating them completely between May and June! But where does this curious lore come from? And is there any substance to the claim that we should avoid eating shellfish in the months of May, June, July, and August? Let’s take a look now.
What time of year is crab cheapest?
It’s the best time of year for a Chesapeake crab feast, according to experts – You don’t have to leave DC for a great crab feast at Ivy City Smokehouse & Tavern. Photograph via Facebook Many people look at crab feasts the same way they do white pants: a summertime phenomenon to be enjoyed from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
As someone who loves white pants and cracking crabs (not together), it’s nice to know that both theories have been debunked by respective experts in fashion and seafood. Growing up around DC and the Chesapeake Bay, we always ate crabs well into the autumn—big, meat-packed local blues that far surpassed the little crustaceans you sometimes get closer to the beginning of the crab harvesting season in March.
Turns out there’s crab biology to thank. “Crabs fatten up as they get ready to hibernate,” says John Rorapaugh, director of sustainability at seafood wholesaler, ProFish. “With the water temperatures starting to chill, almost all the crabs are going to be full, heavy, and a good deal this time of year.” Chesapeake blue crabs shed their shells at multiple points throughout the harvesting season, from the time they emerge from semi-hibernation in the Bay’s muddy bottom in the early spring to the time they return in late fall.
- Rorapaugh says the crabs grow roughly 30 percent between sheds, so they’ll increase in size the later it gets in the year.
- They also take time to grow into their new shells.
- When you go to buy a crab, flip it up side down,” says Rorapaugh.
- The darker and more stained the belly is, that means the crab has had that shell longer.” White crabs, or “light crabs” as watermen call them, are still growing and won’t have as much meat.
The price of crabs fluctuates due to varying factors, but generally speaking, Rorapaugh says you’ll find better deals in restaurants and fish markets when demand slows after Labor Day. They aren’t cheap, especially of late, as storms around the Carolinas and Gulf Coast—two other major blue crab harvesting areas—have disrupted fisheries and heightened demand for Chesapeake crustaceans.
- Still, the cost can be less—even more so if you get cracking during the week instead of a Saturday afternoon.
- At Ivy City Smokehouse and fish market, which is operated by Profish, a dozen large crabs may go for $40 on an autumn weekday versus $50 on a weekend (and $60 or more in peak summer).
- It’s also good for freshness, as crabbers often deliver their catch after working weekends.
“Tuesday is a really great day,” says Rorapaugh. “They’re fresh, they’re live, and you get deals on just-off-the-boat crabs.” All of that being said, consume responsibly. Maryland and Virginia both shortened their crab seasons by around two weeks this year due to an overall dip in population—not enough to raise red flags, but enough to warrant curbing the catch.
Rorapaugh says he’s also seeing fewer male crabs, or “Jimmies,” right now—though he encourages consuming she-crabs, which are sometimes a less popular choice because of their smaller stature and roe (egg sacks), which can show up in mature females. Overall, he says, the “Sallys” are more flavorful. Consider it a local secret.
“A lot of restaurants this time of year that buy Maryland crabs like the added flavor from the female crabs.” Food Editor Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.
What size blue crabs are best?
#1 Male – The #1 Male crab, also known as a “Jimmy”, are typically the most sought after type of crab. They typically range from 5 ½ – 6 ¼ inches. They are easily identified by their blue claws and inverted t-shaped apron which resembles the Washington Monument. #1 Males tend to have flakier meat.
What season are crabs most active?
Crabbing conditions – Crabs thrive in water ranging from 70 to 75 degrees F, and prime crab season traditionally includes the period from late spring to early summer, and late summer into early fall – essentially when the water is warm, but not too warm.
Of course, temperature isn’t the only factor that determines when the best crabbing takes place. Tides are equally important. Even in prime crab season, it’s easy to go home empty handed if you arrive at the water during the wrong time of day. The best time to catch crabs is while the water is moving, especially when the tide is coming in.
As high tide approaches, crabs are pulled toward shore as they actively feed on tiny aquatic creatures that are stirred up by the moving water; this makes them easier to find and catch. But once the water reaches high tide, the water becomes still again, and crabbing becomes more difficult.
Does Blue Crab have a season?
Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week ! Each week, we’re taking a question submitted on the Chesapeake Bay Program website, or a frequently asked question, and answering it here for all to read. This week’s question is one that is probably on a lot of people’s minds right about now since it is one of the most anticipated events in the Chesapeake Bay watershed every year: When does the Maryland blue crab harvest season begin? What are the regulations for this year’s harvest? When people think of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay, they inevitably think about blue crabs,
- As the weather turns warmer, you can begin to taste the Old Bay.
- Whether you enjoy going crabbing, ordering crabcakes or sitting at a summer crab feast picking them for hours on end, the blue crab is undeniably a favorite and definitive species in the Chesapeake Bay.
- In fact, it is estimated that one-third of the nation’s blue crabs come from the Chesapeake Bay.
Luckily for those crab-lovers out there, the time is here. Maryland’s blue crab harvest officially began yesterday, April 1, and will continue until Dec.15. The regulations for blue crab harvest vary based on whether you are crabbing for commercial or recreational purposes.
Pot/trap set beginning time: 1/2 hour before sunrise Pot/trap set ending time: 7 1/2 hours after sunrise Pots aboard boat: 8 1/2 hours after sunrise
Commercial Crabbing Soft Shell Size Minimum
All season: 3 1/2 inches
Commercial Crabbing Hard Shell Size Minimum
Mature Females: NO size minimum April 1-July 14, hard shell: 5 inches July 15-Dec.15, hard shell: 5 1/4 inches April 1-July 14, peeler: 3 1/4 inches July 15-Dec.15, peeler: 3 1/2 inches
Recreational Crabbing Soft Shell Size Minimum
All season: 3 1/2 inches
Recreational Crabbing Hard Shell Size Minimum
Harvest of females is prohibited, unless soft shell April 1-July 14, male hard shell: 5 inches July 15-Dec.15, male hard shell: 5 1/4 inches April 1-July 14, male peeler: 3 1/4 inches July 15-Dec.15, male peeler: 3 1/2 inches
Check the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service webpage for more specific and localized information about the Maryland crabbing season. It is important to follow all regulations for harvest in order to sustain the health of the blue crab fishery in the Chesapeake Bay, but be sure get out there and enjoy the Bay this spring and summer! Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose your question for the next Question of the Week! You can also ask us a question via Twitter by sending a reply to @chesbayprogram ! Be sure to follow us there for all the latest in Bay news and events!
What moon phase is best for crabbing?
Moon Folklore – Folklore is rich among farmers, given their close ties to Earth and her natural rhythms.
Rail fences cut during the dry, waning Moon will stay straighter. Wooden shingles and shakes will lie flatter if cut during the dark of the Moon. Fence posts should be set in the dark of the Moon to resist rotting. Ozark lore says that fence posts should always be set as the tree grew. To set the root end upward makes a short-lived fence. Don’t begin weaning when the Moon is waning. Castrate and dehorn animals when the Moon is waning for less bleeding. Slaughter when the Moon is waxing for juicier meat. Crabbing, shrimping, and clamming are best when the Moon is full. Best days for fishing are between the new and full Moon. Dig your horseradish in the full Moon for the best flavor. Set eggs to hatch on the Moon’s increase, but not if a south wind blows.
BONUS : You’ll also receive our free Beginner Gardening Guide! : Farming by the Moon
What time of year do blue crabs have eggs?
Spawning occurs over a period of one to two weeks, from May to September, with a minor peak in June and major peaks in July and August. Individual females may spawn more than once, depending on the amount of sperm transferred during mating.