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Tangier Island Virginia

Updated on November 10, 2014

Tangier Island Va

This page explores Tangier Island Virginia, located in the Chesapeake Bay.

Tangier Island is a small but beautiful island in the Chesapeake bay. Shallow water and marshy areas surround the island. The grassbeds are home to countless young blue crabs which come to grow and shed.

This fishery for shedder crabs, known as "peeler crabs" provides an important source of income for watermen. The commercial crabbers of Tangier Island catch crabs by traps, nets or scrapes and then hold them in tanks until they molt. The resulting soft shelled crab is a seafood delicacy.

The island also known for its birdwatching opportunities, excellent saltwater fishing and winter waterfowl hunting opportunities. Tourism has become an important business for residents. Tour boats visit from Crisfield Maryland and other local ports.

In 2010 Tangier Island received national attention. The island and several of its 507 residents were featured in an ESPN television advertising campaign, which introduced Tangier and its unique waterman culture to sports fans around the United States.

The ESPN commercials name the island "the biggest sports town in America per capita". It features watermen at work, the island airstrip and the water tower of Tangier Island.

The island has also been the subject of television documentaries about nature and the residents' unique way of life.

soft shelled crab
soft shelled crab

Tangier Island Soft Crabs

A blue crab may shed (or molt) its hard outer shell 18 - 23 times during its three-year life span. Each time it backs out of its shell, it's a soft shell for only a few hours and must be removed from the water immediately in order to prevent the shell from becoming hard.

Soft crabs that are purchased live should be kept moist and stored in a drip-proof tray, between wet newspapers or paper towels in your refrigerator. Soft crabs are also available already dressed, either fresh or frozen.

Cleaning a fresh soft crab is easy. With a pair of scissors, cut off the mouth and face behind the eyes. Cut off the apron. Lift the top shell and snip out the gills and a long filament on each side, then rinse under cold water before cooking.

Smith Island Maryland

Just North of Tangier is Smith Island Maryland. Smith Island is located in the Chesapeake Bay, just west of Crisfield. The island is home to three small communities, Ewell, Tylerton and Rhodes Point. Like Tangiermen, Smith Island residents rely on seafood, fishing and tourism for their livelihood.

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