Soft Shell Crab

Waiting on North Carolina Peelers to Start Next Soft Crab Run

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Picture an immature female peeler showing outward signs that she is about to shed her shell. Notice the red tint on her apron. She also has a red ring on her paddler fin. Targeting peelers is a completely separate activity from the crabbers who target hard crabs with traditional crab pots baited with fish (menhaden). “Peeler potters” use one male crab as “bait” during a female peeler run and sometimes use no bait in their pots. The second picture below is of a “buster” – a crab that has begun the process of shedding. Its shell splits across the back, and it literally backs out of its old shell. Once the crab has fully shed it’s shell, it’s called a “slough” (pronounced ‘sluff’). The new crab is 20% larger than the old shell.

soft shell crab
soft shell crab

The first peeler run has ended in Georgia and South Carolina. Now, we must wait for Mother Nature to activate the peelers in the Core and Pamlico Sounds of North Carolina, behind the Outer Banks. Crabbers in North Carolina who target peeler crabs, as opposed to hard crabs, set their peeler pots last week. The run will start off slowly with mainly small peelers being caught. These will shed out as primes and hotel primes. We should see a few jumbos starting next week. Southern Virginia should begin next week also, quickly followed by areas around Crisfield on the lower Eastern Shore.