The Blue Crab's Latin name translates as "beautiful swimmer that is savory." Its meat sometimes is compared to the sweetness of lobster meat; the flavor best appreciated by cracking and eating steamed hardshells or feasting on softshells. Crab is prepared in restaurant and home kitchens in innumerable ways, steamed or sauteed, as Maryland Crab Cakes and Crab Imperial, or in crab soup and crab dip.
The brackish (slightly salty) water of Chesapeake Bay provides an ideal habitat for the Blue Crab. Integral to the State's economy, its harvest is carefully nurtured and eagerly anticipated. In harvesting, commercial crabbers use crab pots as their main tools. Trotlines preceded this method and served well for many years. Indeed, stalwart recreational fishermen still prefer crabbing the old-fashioned way, with a dip net.
Blue crabs are harvested as hard shell crabs, peeler crabs (just prior to molting), and soft shell crabs (immediately after the molt). The just-right salinity waters of the Wye and Chester Rivers and Eastern Bay frequently result in the harvesting of giant males, called "jimmies." In Maryland, the legal size for harvesting male crabs is 5 inches or more across; peelers, 3 inches across; and soft crabs, 3 and 1/2 inches across. No size limits are set for mature females ("sooks").
Blue Crabs are the most valuable commercial fishery in Maryland. The annual catch of hard crabs from the Chesapeake Bay accounts for over 50 percent of total landings.
July 18, 2000
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