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Blue Crab

The blue crab, Callinectes sapidus (which means beautiful, savory swimmer), ranges from Nova Scotia to Argentina. When the water is warm, blue crabs actively feed and forage throughout our local bays and estuaries. During the winter blue crabs move into deeper waters and bury themselves in the mud, remaining dormant throughout the winter months until the water warms up. Blue crabs are decapods which means they have 10 appendages, including walking legs, paddles for swimming and a set of claws.

a photo of a bluecrab
Blue crabs get their name from the blue coloration
on their claws and other appendages

Blue crabs can typically grow up to 9 inches (23cm) in length. However, larger crabs have been caught on the upwards of almost one foot long. Blue crabs feed on a variety of marine life including, fish, clams, mussels, snails, algae and dead and decaying organisms. The blue crab is a voracious predator and has one of the strongest set of claws out of any crab in the world. When handling these crabs be sure to keep the claws away from your body, or else you are likely to receive a painful pinch.

As blue crabs grow they shed their hard outer shell. After they have completely shed their hard shell, they are known as soft shell crabs. When in between the hard and soft shell stage the crab is known as a peeler or shedder, and this can be determined by a thin white line along the outer rim of the paddle-like appendages on the crabs fifth pair of legs.

Blue crabs mate from May to October. In order for successful reproduction to take place the female must be in the soft shell state. During the reproductive process, the male carries the female around in an embrace until the female's shell has hardened. In about two months after reproducing the female will release her eggs into the water. Female crabs can produce up to 8 million eggs at one time.

Photo shows how to handle crab without being pinched
To avoid being pinched by the blue claw,
handle them by using tongs

In New York waters blue crabs are commonly fished for by recreational anglers using a crab pot or trap. Blue crabs with a hard shell, must be at least 4.5 inches to take. Soft shell crabs must be 3.5 inches in order to take them. Lastly, crabs in between both stages known as peelers or shedders must be at least 3 inches in length from point to point on the carapace. Blue crabs with eggs may not be taken or possessed. Blue crabs can be fished for all year round, but only 50 crabs can be taken daily. Be sure to check the recreational size and catch limits before you head out on your next fishing trip.

Blue crab meat is used in a variety of food preparations, one of the most popular being crab cakes.

Part 44: Lobsters and Crabs - Regulations (link leaves DEC website)