Let's talk crab [NJ]

(Greg Caggiano) #241

We are always looking for guides. Send me a PM if you are interested and I can try to get you connected.


I ran into a Houston Chronicle article penned by long time outdoors writer Shannon Tompkins that has info on molting crabs, how they add water to their bodies that creates a bigger body and a clean crab with a relative lack of meat.

It’s a great read and has lots to ingest, pun intended, about one of our favorites, the noble, mighty blue crab.


Let me check this out. The rusty crabs are by far better eating. In fact, it is weird. My local river up in central NJ has crabs that are larger and generally filled with a lot more meat. The southern bay I fish in has more crabs that are super clean but much more filled with water. This weekend I think I’ll be down in southern nj and see if these late summer crabs have some more meat. Central NJ will be the spot to fish but I’m in the process of getting a new boat. I need to head south and use my family’s boat lol.

any good crabbing down in tx lately?

@gcaggiano have you crabbed on SH lately?

(Greg Caggiano) #244

Not since we last spoke, unfortunately. The summer camp season has come to an end. One of these days I will borrow a seining net, though.

Our regular marine science programs resume again in a week or two. I will report back then. For now, I’m enjoying a couple weeks off. :slight_smile:


Well if you and Justin want to crab soon I might be around. I took off Tuesday and Wednesday too. So if you guys want to crab down in Bayville let me know. I’ll be crabbing somewhere over the next few days :slight_smile:

(Greg Caggiano) #246

That might work! I will let you know!


For some reason newbie crabbers bring me lots of luck lol.

(Greg Caggiano) #248

If we have the luck we had that day with those campers, then you will be in luck!


Galveston is an hour away and H-Mart five minutes so I’ve been “crabbing” there even though there is nothing like fresh out of the water crabs, although the ones at H-Mart are still alive.

I was picking out live ones when a nice Asian lady turned me on to fact that the dirty ones had more meat.

I’ve been crabbing since the Johnson administration and never figured that out. Hello!

I guess it didn’t matter because if it was legal size we kept it and ate it.


How much do they charge down there for live crabs?

My buddy is a commercial fisherman and the Asians in NYC pay top dollar for female crabs. I don’t know why, but those get more money than #1 jimmies.

Big males have more meat and I can’t tell the difference in flavor. I think it is a mental game or color preference.

I personally think they should ban harvesting of female crabs. There would be a lot more crabs if they didn’t kill females and let the males breed.

The males can breed everyday while the females have to hold eggs and it takes a long time to spawn. I can only imagine the crab population if they banned the harvesting of females. It just does not make sense to me. It might be different down in the south though.


To be more precise, it is the Chinese that pay more for the female crabs. They sell them to Chinatown and my friend gets more money for the females once the season opens on Dec 1st. So for some reason he can get more for smaller female crabs than larger male crab with more meat. I’m confused :smile:


I wonder if there’s not just a culinary but also a cultural element to that…

(Eli Paryzer) #254

Apparently, after a google search, The Chinese believe that female crabs are more prized over male crabs because they contain much more roe, and are believed to taste sweeter.


I think in NJ and NY waters it is illegal to keep females with an egg sack. I will try to confirm but taste wise, I’ve done a blind taste taste and I could not taste any difference between male and female meat.

I know 100% that you can’t keep a female lobster with eggs.

(Jeff) #256

In NJ the regulation is "All female crabs with eggs attached and all undersized crabs shall be returned to the water immediately."


I did a little checking and called two of the dozen or so seafood markets in Seabrook on Galveston Bay and they were 3.19 and 3.59. At a market on the docks in Galveston they’re 3.99.

Where I live in west Houston they’re 3.99 at H-Mart and 99 Ranch, a half mile from each other but both were out expecting shipments.

How much are crabs up there if you had to buy them?

I was hoping to get a few tomorrow for the Wifeacita and myself, she prefers crabs to the lobsters I’m cooking as we finally got a decent price of 7.99. I’ll do more tomorrow about feeding on crabs.


I honestly don’t even know how much crabs are. I always fish for them and never buy them during the summer. I buy them from my friend in the winter by the bushel.

I might crab today. Enjoy those lobsters!

(Tom T) #259

I understand the sentiment, and if you catch a female in the early summer you should definitely follow that rule. However, if you are catching females now, in the late summer/fall they have already cast their eggs and likely won’t ever cast again. Here are some snippets from a commercial crabber who has worked with the DEC in NY on regs. Interesting stuff that I never really knew… (not my words below, but someone I trust)

During the average female crab’s lifetime here in NY and NJ, she lives two years at the most. Most die at a year and a half. They are spawned in the ocean as the bays are too brackish. The salinity has to be high in order for the crab larvae to survive. That is why in June, we see all the sooks leaving the bays and heading out the inlets with sponge attached. They cast the eggs in the ocean and return in late August and September. At this point, they are a year old. That winter, 90% of the sooks will die on the bottom and never cast another egg although they do have a secondary immature egg inside their body. That immature egg is the delicacy for the mostly Chinese market of winter blue claw crabs.

Actually, when a crab goes from a “she” crab (immature female) to a sook (a mature female), she will never grow again. If she is 4", she will stay 4". As she turns into a sook, she sheds her shell for the last time, mates with a Jimmie or Jimmy, and hardens back up after the ritual. Most of this happens in the spring when she is one year old. Usually she will leave the bay for the ocean’s higher salinity, cast her eggs, return to the bay and die that winter. That’s why most states don’t have restrictions on sooks .

It’s not that sooks are useless. In the late spring and early summer, after a she-crab sheds, she’s mated while soft (Doubles) and turns into a sook. During the summer, you should leave females alone because they are developing their eggs and fertilizing them with sperm held in their body from the male. When the eggs mature, we see them as sponge in the apron area. The sook leaves the brackish bay because the egg needs a higher salinity in order for the egg to develop further after being castoff.

In the late summer and fall the sooks return to the bay and bed down for the winter in the channels and lower depressions of the bay usually in a muddy, softer bottom. In the northeast, many die right there from the cold water. As a winter crabber, I find the strong ,cold north winds blowing over a bay without ice are especially deadly for crabs. The ice actually protects the crabs by not allowing the super cooled surface water from swirling down to the bottom through wave action. Many times in the Great South Bay, we find after a hard northwest wind and cold temperatures the bottom is frozen like 4" asphalt and so are the crabs in it.

My observation, after 40 years of dredging winter crabs in the GSB, most sooks will die that winter at a year and a half, some will make it to the spring at two years old and then die. Most males seem to go into the ocean or find a spot to survive the winter and live until 3-4 years old.

So is the sook useless, no. She should be harvested in fall upon her return to the bay or left for me to dredge up in the winter because she will be carrying a secondary roe which will never be cast but the Chinese go wild over.


Good read Tom.

Crappy hot day on the water today. I think we got about a dozen and 6 in the trap when we got back.


Let’s talk preparation and serving. I purge them live in fresh water changing the water several times every couple of minutes or so. I’ve grown up boiling them with sacks of Zatarain’s crab boil plus whatever Cajun seasoned salt is around, I currently use Ragin’ Cajun out of Hammond, La.

Boil for around 10 minutes and soak for about 5. Remove from water, pop off the shell, and scrape out the guts.

Here’s where there’s a fork in the road. When I was a kid and through college it was pop the shell, remove guts and ice for about an hour and serve with cocktail sauce.

Later on it is serve hot/warm with melted butter with Cajun seasoning and a warm fresh flour tortilla is usually involved filled with crab and dipped in the butter mixture.

Then there’s this out of Tony Chachere’s Cajun Country Cookbook with crabs boiled in spices for 11 minutes and layered in a Styrofoam ice chest with Cajun seasoning on each layer finally covered with newspaper then put the top on and leave for an hour or more. Delicious.

Finally there’s BBQ crabs they serve at several places in Galveston. It’s just crab with lots of Cajun seasoned salt deep fried. Amazing stuff.

I’ll be running into several batches of these along with blackened oysters in about a month.

Oops also whole blackened flounder, fried oysters, whole fried catfish will also be involved as we eat our way up and down the SE Texas Gulf coast, also probably red snapper. We might squeeze in a breakfast.

Corvette johnny and anybody else inquiring minds want to know how you do blue crabs.