Peeler - Shedder Crabs
What are Peeler Crabs?
Peeler crabs, also known as shedder crabs are young blue crabs that are ready to molt or shed their hard shells. Once molted, the crabs are soft and vulnerable to predators until the new shell hardens.
Peeler crabs are harvested and kept in tanks until they shed. Once peelers shed into soft shell crabs, they are rushed to market where they are considered a delicacy.
In the Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay and other estuaries, peeler crabs are among the best baits for catching croaker and other species of fish. Anglers sometimes go to great lengths to obtain high quality peeler crabs for bait. Peelers for bait should be alive and "rank" (ready to molt).
In most situations they are fished on typical top and bottom rigs. To cut up a peeler crab for bait, remove the top hard shell and apron. Next, cut the crab in half. Remove the soft shell and then cut the leg segments into 4-6 pieces, leaving the legs attached to the meat. Finally, crack the claws and remove the shells.
Almost every morsel can be used for bait and the shells can be returned to the water to help attract fish. Soft shelled crabs can be cut and fished in the same fashion. When fishing soft crab baits, anglers sometimes use a small rubber band to help bind the legs to the hook shank.
A product called "shedder crab oil" is said to be very effective as a saltwater fishing attractant. The oil is mixed in with cut baits or applied to lures such as bucktail jigs.
Peeler Crab Photos
Chesapeake Bay Peeler Crabs
Famous for its blue crabs, the Chesapeake Bay is a major nursery and breeding ground for Atlantic blue crabs. Crabs are harvested throughout the bay as hard-shelled crabs, peeler crabs, and soft-shelled crabs.
In many parts of the Chesapeake Bay, peeler crabs are highly sought after for fishing bait. Anglers catch striped bass, croaker, weakfish, speckled trout, red drum, black drum, cobia, bluefish, spot, flounder, and other species using peeler crab baits.