That Nature Show: What Do you Know About The Blue Crab?

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This is the fourth in our new weekly column, That Nature Show, about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks!  Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.

We were in Easton for New Year’s with the family and at 9 p.m. New Year’s Eve a.k.a Puritian Midnight and Midnight For Those With Young Children, there was a much anticipated crab drop. My son, 8, a motormouth who asks a thousand questions per diem that I can’t answer because they are brilliant and incisive asked, “Will they drop crabs on my head? Who will do the dropping? How long to crabs in the wild live? Where are they in the winter?” I responded like the parenting books tell you you should with an encouraging: “Hmmm?”

“Mom!” he said, “You sound like a robot. You used to go crabbing when you were my age, why don’t you know these things?”

This is for him.

Baltimore’s Blue Crab — mascot on everything from t-shirts to beer mugs to New Year’s crab drops — is callinectes sapidus, from the Latin, Beautiful Swimmer That Tastes Good. They range the Western Atlantic from Nova Scotia all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, but the fishery has  historically centered on the Chesapeake Bay.

But, my friends,  if you’re eating crab in the winter, you are not eating Maryland crab. Our season is from April 1 to December 15. You’re eating Louisiana crab or crab imported from as far away as Indonesia. You can’t sing Maryland, My Maryland with a pitcher of Natty Boh eating those, can you?

Let Chesapeake  soft-shell crab sandwiches, crab salad, crab cakes, rockfish stuffed with crab, crab Imperial…I could go on… let boiled crabs with Old Bay and lump back fin straight from the tub with a spoon be a seasonal food. Something to look forward to as the days grow longer. Our crabs are migratory; in the winter and early spring the females are all at the mouth of the Bay, trying to have babies, okay? Cut them a break.

The crab eggs hatch into larva and float at the mouth of the Bay for for to five weeks (that’s what they’re doing as I write this– aren’t they adorable?), after which juvenile crabs make their way back up the Bay, and are firmly established by the time of the running of the Preakness at which time I tie on my crab bib and clarify some butter. 



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  1. Although I do not eat crabs, I enjoyed this piece! It reminded me of the Carroll poem about the Walrus and the Carpenter. I firmly believe in a crab moratorium for a few years so that the crabs can return en force.

  2. Oh, and beware of the packaged “swimmer crab” that is showing up in all the supermarkets. The genus may be the same, but the species is NOT. Any attempt to use this meat in crab cakes, crab dip, or anything that wants to taste like crab will leave you disappointed.
    The bay is sacred; honor your mother.

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