Soft Shell Crab


Harvest Location:

Type of Gear:


Type of Seafood:

FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, and MD

Pot, Trap, Scrape


Soft Shell Crab


There is no tastier harbinger of spring than the mighty, yet delicate, soft shell crab.  Some years they arrive early, some years late, but when they start running in Florida and move up the coast all the way to Maryland, people everywhere come out of winter hiding hungry for the taste of summer’s best meal.  Soft shell crabs are blue crabs that are undergoing a molting process.  Blue crabs shed their shells and grow, roughly by 30% each time.  It is during this period that they mate, so one of the ways watermen catch peeler crabs, crabs that are ready to shed their shell, is to place a male crab in a pot as bait for female peelers looking to “hook up”.  The peeler crabs are then placed in recirculating water trays called floats and monitored 24/7 for that exact moment in which they shed their shell.  If you catch them 2 hours after shedding you got yourself a soft shell crab, if you wait much longer than that your crab has hardened and your chance at dining on a soft shell is gone.  Watermen will tell you thunderstorms are particularly tricky due to the fact that they usually trigger mass molts causing a flood of soft shells and not enough hands to harvest.  When enjoying that soft shell crab on your plate, think about this; whether its in Crisfield, MD, Saxis, VA or Wanchese, NC, no matter what time of day it is, there’s a seasoned crabber dutifully keeping watch over rows of floating trays, waiting for the next shell to pop and providing the next delicious crab for us lucky summer diners.


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