Crab Tips - Tips for Crabbing
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Blue Crab in Crab Trap

Assessing your Catch - Light vs. Heavy, Dead vs. Alive

While crabbing for blue crabs, you'll want to assess your catch to make sure you are bringing home crabs worth eating. Despite the obvious methods, there are ways to check whether or not the crabs you catch are light or heavy and also if your crabs are dead or alive. I will go into detail to really help make sure you know what's in your basket. After all, you don't want yourself or your guests opening a paper shell, and you definitely don't want to cook a dead crab.

First, let me explain the method of checking if a crab will be full of meat or full of nothing but a shell and water. If you see a crab come up in your trap or trotline and it has a gleaming white, exceptionally clean underside, this is most likely going to be a light crab. Since we want to be sure we are not throwing out a potentially tasty crab, you'll want to give it another quick test. Grab the crab with its underside facing you, with either a pair of tongs or with your thumb and pointer finger by the base of the backfin (see picture below). Using your free hand gently squeeze the area of the shell, under the legs, close to where the crab's point is. If this area feels soft to your thumb or easy to squeeze, you have what we call a whitey and it will be empty inside. Throw this one back in the water. It is not worth eating and it may die in transport. If you find that area is nice and hard when you squeeze it, throw this crab in your bushel basket, it will be full of meat.

Bottom of Blue Crab       Checking if Blue Crab is Light or Heavy
Blue Crab Pictures - Copyright JP Photo Credit

So now you're checking out the crabs in your basket while on the boat, or after you brought them home, and you notice one that seems like its dead. You do not want to cook a dead blue crab. There are many reasons you do not want to cook a dead blue crab. A blue crab will spoil almost instantly and it will taste bad or the meat will be really mushy when cooked. Also, there is a chance it will make you sick. So besides shaking the crab and putting it on the ground to see if it moves, here are some good tips that will let you know if this crab is alive and whether you should cook this crab or not.

Before trying these methods, make sure the crab is not moving on it's own. If it is showing any signs of life, you don't want to put your fingers where they may get clawed. The first test is to open the crab's mouth by simply pulling it down (see picture below). If the crab makes any effort to close its mouth, it's good to cook. If its mouth stays open, try this other test. Hold the crab with its underside facing you and gently pull one of the legs until it just barley detaches (see picture below). If the leg bounces back into place, it's good to cook. If the leg just hangs, do yourself a favor and do not cook this crab. You'll be happy you didn't.

Blue Crab Front View       Blue Crab Backfin
Blue Crab Pictures - Copyright JP Photo Credit


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