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Crabs

Updated on October 22, 2014

Pacific Crabs, Alaska Crabs, Atlantic Blue Crabs, Stone Crabs

This page is about crabs of the world including blue crabs, red crabs, snow crabs, king crabs, Dungeness crabs, stone crabs, jonah crabs, soft shelled crabs and more.

Many of the most famous crabs in the world come North America's Pacific Coast including Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. Pacific crabs include the king crab, snow crab and Dungeness crab.

Crabs of the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico are also popular among seafood lovers. These include blue crabs, red crabs, jonah crabs and stone crabs.

Other crabs, such as blue swimming crabs come from exotic areas such as Indonesia and Australia.

Alaskan Crabs

Several species of crabs are harvested along the coast of Alaska and Western Canada. The fishery is known for its danger, cold weather, potential big profits and loss of life. The popular television series "Deadliest Catch" has brought international recognition to the commercial crab fleets of the area.

Alaska is famous for it's delicious varieties of crabs. Among them, the king crab, snow crab and Dungeness crabs.

King crabs are the largest of all the crabs caught in the world, weighing up to 10 pounds.

Snow Crabs are are another delicious Alaskan Crab. Frozen snow crabs are available worldwide, cleaned and pre-cooked, ready to heat and serve.

Dungeness crabs are known for their high quality meat. The 2-3 lb crabs are steamed and served whole.

Blue Crabs

The blue crab's shell is about 7 inches wide and 4 inches long. It weighs 1 - 2 pounds when fully grown. The back of the blue crab is dark or brownish green and is drawn out on each side into a large spine. When fully grown the spine may be more than 8 inches wide. The abdomen and lower legs are white. Crab claws are various shades of blue, but the claw tips of the female are red.

Blue crabs are fished commercially in much of the USA, but the heart of the fishery is from New Jersey down to North Carolina. The bulk of the crabbing occurs in the Chesapeake Bay. Watermen set pots, bank traps, trot lines or dredge for crabs, depending on the season and location. Hard crabs are the main target, although a big market in some areas is the soft crab fishery. Crabs near molting, called "shedders" or "peelers" are caught and kept in captivity until they shed their hard shell. The soft crabs are then rushed to market fresh, or frozen for later sale.

How To Catch Blue Crabs

Crabbing is an enjoyable family activity. Catching blue crabs does not require much in the way of equipment or skill. Crabbing can be done from a boat, pier, near bridges or along the shoreline. Crabbers need only a line, weight, bait and dip net for the traditional rig, or an inexpensive crab trap, which eliminates the need for a dipping crabs up.

The simpler rig is just twine, a sinker and whatever bait you can obtain, tied on the line. The line is then lowered into the water, and gently raised once a tug is felt. Serious crabbing baits include fresh fish, eels, bull lips and other baits but the most basic bait, chicken necks, work just as well on a hand line. The traps are used in a similar fashion, except that the trap is lifted sharply to close the doors suddenly and capture any crabs that are inside.

Crabs should be kept damp and cool and steamed as soon as possible. They are simple to cook, and can be steamed whole or chilled, then the backs removed and rinsed out before steaming. In either case, the crabs are sprinkled with crab seasoning and steamed until they are bright orange.

Red Crabs

A little known fishery for red crabs exists along the mid and north Atlantic area of the USA. These crabs are caught in a narrow band of very deep water off the North American coast. Red crabs are delicious and prized by seafood lovers. These crabs are landed in New England and Virginia with local markets thriving in both locations.

Stone Crabs

Stone crabs are brownish red with gray spots and tan underneath, and have large and unequally-sized pincers with black tips. Females have a larger carapace (the top outer shell), but males usually have larger claws than females.

The larger of the two claws is called the "crusher claw". The smaller claw is called the "pincer claw". If the larger crusher claw is on the right side of the crab's body, the crab is "right handed". If the crusher claw is on the left side of the crab's body, it is "left handed". Since crabs' eyes are on stalks, they can see 360°. A large crab claw can weigh up to half a pound.

Stone crab claws are a popular seafood item in the southern USA. Stone crabs are found in bays and estuaries along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts but the claws are commercially harvested almost entirely in Florida. The majority are harvested off the southern tip of Florida from Sarasota to Fort Lauderdale. Some are also harvested up state in the Panhandle off the coast of St. Marks.

Stone crabs are caught in traps and only the claws that meet a regulated size are taken. The live stone crabs are then returned to the water where they regenerate new claws in about 18 months.

Freshly harvested claws are cooked immediately after harvest and sold either fresh-cooked or frozen. To enjoy stone crabs, crack the shell of the claws using a crab cracker or the back of a heavy spoon. Next, remove the cracked shell pieces, leaving the meat attached to the moveable pincer. The meat can also be picked from the claws and used as an ingredient in other recipes. It takes about 2.5 pounds of cooked stone crab claws to obtain 1 pound of processed crab meat.

photo credit: www.fl-seafood.com

dungeness crab
dungeness crab

Dungeness Crabs

Dungeness Crabs are caught from Alaska to California. They are prized for their delicate flavor.

The Pacific Dungeness crab stock is quite cyclical, and may be ready for a rebound. New research techniques in development seek to forecast stock size three or four years ahead of time.

Commercial Dungeness crabbing vessels operate in some of the winter's worst weather in hazardous waters and have the highest fatality rate of any West Coast fishery. "Operation Safe Crab" is the United States Coast Guard's continuing initiative to reduce the number of fisherman's lives lost at sea.

The California Dungeness crab fishery has become a financial mainstay for many fishermen, but catches have been on a downward cycle for the past few years. California Department of Fish and Game reported that shows that some 8.2 million pounds were caught in 2007, down from 13.5 million pounds the previous season and 23.8 million pounds the years before.

In California, these crabs range from the Oregon border southward to Santa Barbara, although they are uncommon south of Point Conception. Dungeness crab prefer sandy or sand-mud bottom, but may be found on almost any sea floor habitat. They range from the intertidal zone to a depth of at least 750 ft., but are not abundant beyond 300 ft.

Senate Bill 1690 (SB 1690), which was signed in September 2008, requires natural resource managers to develop the California Dungeness Crab Task Force (DCTF), a group composed of commercial and recreational fishermen, crab processors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as representatives from California Sea Grant and California Department of Fish and Game (DFG). The purpose of the DCTF is to provide stakeholders with an opportunity to make fishery management recommendations to regulators.

Buy Dungeness Crabs Online

Dungeness Crab

Jonah Crab

The Jonah crab is a species of crab found on the Atlantic coast of North America. Their color is usually reddish on top and yellowish on their underside, with a mottling of yellow and red on their legs. They have two large, powerful pincers and eight short, thick legs.

Jonah Crabs look similar to rock crabs due to similar color and possessing 9 teeth on each side of the eye. Jonahs have black tips on their claws and a rougher shell edge as compared to rock crabs.

What is your favorite crab? How about your secret crab recipe? Tell us your thoughts and ideas about crabs!

Crab Feedback

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    • JohnMichael2 profile image

      JohnMichael2 5 years ago

      interesting lens ... I was looking for photos of the crabs... dungeness & stone are there ... have you any more?

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 6 years ago from Connecticut

      Geat lens! We've been catching (and eating) blue claws since we were kids.

    • profile image

      Chesapeake211 6 years ago

      Two thumbs up!

    • Wendy L Henderson profile image

      Wendy Henderson 8 years ago from PA

      There is nothing like Maryland Crabs. We love them! ~Wendy