Blue Crab

Blue Crab

Callinectes sapidus

Market Name(s): Blue crab, hardshell crab, softshell crab; blue swimming crab

Primary Source(s): Chesapeake Bay

Season: April-Nov

Size Range:  1-3 lbs

Blue tinges on dark shells and blue patches on the legs give the crab its name. Males have blue claws; females’ claws are orange-tipped. Blue crabs average 4 to 6 inches across. In the domestic fishery, male crabs (“Jimmies”) and immature females (“Sallies”) may be taken as hardshells when their carapace measures 5 inches. There are no size limits on mature female crabs (“sooks”). Blue crab is sold in both hardshell and softshell forms. Peeler crabs are those taken just before molting; softshell crabs are those harvested right afterward. The crabs are harvested with traps, nets and dredges. Blue crabs are found in brackish estuaries and bays from Cape Cod to the Gulf of Mexico. The largest concentration is in Chesapeake and Delaware bays off Maryland and Virginia. North Carolina and Louisiana have blue-crab fisheries as well. The same sapidus species is found in Central and South America, which supply crabmeat to the U.S. market. Blue swimming crab from the Portunus genus is imported from Southeast Asia, primarily as pasteurized meat.