Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs

Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs


The ubiquitous Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab seems to be everywhere in the summertime. 

Whether served up steamed on a newspaper covered table or combined with other ingredients into your favorite crab dish, they’re a delicious part of a Chesapeake Bay summer.


Pile of steamed blue crabs

There are several ways to catch Chesapeake Bay crabs.  Here are two of the most popular.

Hand Line Crabbing:  This can be done with from a boat, a dock, or the shoreline.  Tie bait to a line (string or fishing line long enough to reach bottom with a weight attached) and slowly lower it into the water.

When you feel a nibble, slowly raise the line to the surface. Go slowly and try not to scare the crab. Use a net to scoop up any crabs clinging to the end of your line.  The preferred bait is chicken necks.


Crab Pots:  The crabpot is a large square trap constructed out of galvanized chicken wire.

The trap has two internal chambers. The bottom chamber, or “downstairs”, consists of two or four entrance funnels, known as “throats”, which allow the crab to easily enter but not exit.

In the center of the bottom chamber is the “bait box” which is constructed of fine-mesh galvanized wire so that the crab cannot get to the bait. The top chamber is the holding area, known as the “parlor” or “upstairs”.

Crabs enter the parlor through oblong, funnel-shaped, holes cut into the floor of the parlor making it difficult for the crab to swim back downstairs.

“Beautiful Swimmers”

The scientific name for the blue crab is Callinectes sapidesCallinectes is derived from Latin and Greek.  “Calli” translates to “beautiful” and “nectes” translates to “swimmer.”  The species name, “sapidus,” translates to “savory.”  Thus the scientific name for the blue crab translates to savory beautiful swimmer.  Anyone who is familiar with the blue crab will agree that this is an appropriate name.

Chesapeake Bay Crab Terminology

  • Jimmies:  Male crabs
  •  Sooks:  Female crabs
  • Hardshells:  Crabs with hard shells.
  • Peelers:  Crabs that are just about to shed their hard shells.
  • Softshells:  Crabs that have shed their hard shells, leaving them with thin, soft shells.  Soft shell crabs can be eaten whole, without shelling.
  • She-crabs: Immature female crabs.
  • Apron:  The shell’s abdominal covering.  You can determine the sex of a crab by the shape of the apron.  The male has a T-shaped apron.  Immature female crabs have a triangular apron sealed to the body.  Mature females have a broadly rounded apron, which is not sealed to the bottom portion of the shell.

Why are the called Blue Crabs, when they look red? That bright red color you see in the crab’s shell is what happens after they’ve been cooked. Before that, the back of the shell is blue-gray color and the legs are bright blue with just hints of red around their claws.

Blue Crabs: Catch ’em, Cook ’em, Eat ’em

A practical, entertaining, well-illustrated guide to blue crabs and crabbing along the US East and Gulf Coasts.

Provides guidance on catching, cooking, picking, and eating crabs. Healthy, lower-fat (but tasty) recipes are emphasized. Includes extensive information about Callinectes sapidus (the blue crab) as well.
Oder Blue Crabs: Catch ’em, Cook ’em, Eat ’em from

Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Information