The Blue Crab, (Callinectes sapidus) also known as the "blue claw"; is a feisty little marine creature that provides a good deal of fun and delicious food. The creature's coloration consists of hues of blue, green, and red. They can be found just about anywhere you can access the water, from a few inches deep to the deepest parts of the bay.
Blue Crabs can be taken by a number of methods. The use of bait in wire traps involves a minimal amount of effort for the recreational crabber and can be effective throughout the crabbing season, which usually begins in June and may last well into October. Baited drop lines are often used during the summer months to entice nibbling crabs close enough to a boat or dock so that they can be scooped with a net. A popular bait used for drop lines is chicken necks, thus a person crabbing around these parts gets nicknamed a "chicken necker" by other fishermen.
Harvested crabs should be placed in a bucket with ice and/or very little water and covered with a wet towel, or a piece of wet burlap. Crabs bite, well actually pinch, and a pair of long-nosed pliers should be carried to aid in handling the feisty little devils.
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Blue Crabs belong to a group of animals called Crustacea, which also includes lobsters and shrimp. They are decapods, meaning they have ten legs. There are more than 50 families of crabs and thousands of species worldwide, including the blue crab, shore crabs, hermit crabs, and spider crabs, to name a few. They have excellent eyesight and certain species can detect movement from as far as 20-30 yards away. Crabs can hear and make different kinds of sounds which are used in courtship or to intimidate a competitor.
Blue Crabs live anywhere from the shoreline to the deeper parts of the bay. Blue Crabs can tolerate wide ranges of temperature and salinity.
When walking along the shore, you have probably seen crab shells washed up on the beach. A crab's hard exoskeleton doesn't actually grow, but a soft shell grows inside it, and when the crab gets too big, the exoskeleton must be shed. This process is called molting. In preparation for growing the new shell, the crab absorbs the calcium from the old shell into its blood, so that it can be used for the new shell. The old, hard shell cracks, and the crab, now soft and wrinkled, frees itself. At this point, the crab absorbs large amounts of water and expands to its new size. While the new shell is hardening, the crab is vulnerable to predators, so it tries to stay hidden, and sometimes will not eat for several days. Molting frequency decreases with a crab's age, and some crabs may molt up to twenty times in a lifetime.
Mating usually takes place between a newly-molted, soft-shelled mature female and a larger male with a hard shell. The male carries the female around before she molts, and may continue to do so after mating. This protective behavior not only helps the female, but guards the male's genetic investment, and decreases chances of his being displaced by another male. After mating, the female deposits thousands of fertilized eggs onto her swimmerets. When the eggs hatch, usually in the warmer months, free-swimming larvae spend several months as plankton before they go through a number of molting stages, eventually settling down on the sea bed.
Crabs are not fussy eaters and will dine on worms, mollusks, other small crabs, algae, decaying fish, or anything else they can catch. The crab has a hearty appetite, and may even eat crabs their own size. It finds food by using smell detectors on its antennae, and 2 other detectors on its legs that tell the crab when it makes contact with a food source.