Adventure | Food | Nature

How to Catch Your Own Blue Crabs

Since we’re right in the middle of one of the best times of years to harvest Blue Crabs, we thought we’d take a closer look at these crustaceans and revisit some of the crabbing how-to tips from our Field Guide to help you take advantage of one of our favorite local crustaceans. 

The Blue Crab, whose scientific name Callinectes sapidus translates to “savory beautiful swimmer,” is certainly just that. They’re prized for their sweet meat and how easy they are to catch in the creeks and rivers in the Sea Islands. From October to December, crabs are at their heaviest and largest, making them even more sought-after by locals. Large males (“Jimmies”) can typically be caught in the rivers and creeks this time of year, while “Sooks” (females) are found in the saltier waters nearer the ocean.  

The easiest way to tell the two sexes apart is to look at their front claws: males have bright blue claws and legs, while females have bright orange tips on their claws. You can also turn them over and look at their bellies. Males have a pointed T-shaped abdomen; females, a more rounded one. One last distinction: males generally have flakier meat and the female’s meat is usually denser. But you’ll have to catch and cook them to find that out for yourself!  

In South Carolina, blue crabs need to measure five inches across the back of the shell from point to point to be kept. Males are larger and generally measure around seven or eight inches. The largest crab recorded was caught in the Chesapeake Bay and measured 10.72 inches, weighing in at 1.1 pounds! While you probably won’t snag one that size, we do think you should try your hand at this easy and fun family activity. Here are our Field Guide’s directions for the best chance at success in Kiawah River’s waters:  

How to Catch a Blue Crab:  
First: To catch blue crabs, raw chicken is the preferred bait. Attach a few yards of string to a stick or spool, and at the other end tie on a chicken neck or gizzard and a small fishing weight. (For a store-bought version, simple crabbing kits with weighted chicken hooks are often available at local bait shops and hardware stores.)  

Next: Drop the weighted bait into a tidal creek and watch for the line to move; pull up the line, and hopefully, you’ll feel the weight of a blue crab that’s still hanging on.   

Last: Just before lifting from the water, use your net to scoop up the crab into the bucket.   

All that’s left to do after that is to enjoy your catch! We always enjoy a good old fashioned Lowcountry crab boil. You can find our tips for hosting a Lowcountry boil right here. We hope you enjoy one of the pastimes that makes Kiawah River such a special place to live!