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A Crab's Life Cycle

Chesapeake Crab.JPG

A crab lives 3 years to full maturity.  In the 3rd year of life, they move up into the rivers where they were born (we call these "river crabs") and they mate, then die.  This usually starts happening at the end of June/beginning of July in the Northeast.  At this time, our crabbers start catching "big crabs". 


When the season ends in late fall, all that is leftover are crabs in their 1st or 2nd year of life.  When the new season begins April 1st, the only available crabs are these juveniles.  We must give these crabs a chance to molt (shed their shell) and grow into their bigger shell.  They need to repeat this cycle 3 or 4 times, which brings us to July when we start catching the "big crabs" again.  By this time, the crabs are now 3 years old and the cycle starts all over. 

This is the reason we don't have "big crabs" in April, May and June...they simply aren't available yet.

Did you know?

A female crab only lays eggs once in her lifetime.  She lays approximately 20,000 eggs of which only 3 crabs make it to full maturity.  Most of them are eaten by fish.  Before the female lays her eggs, her Apron (bottom shell) looks like the before photo below.  After she lays her eggs, her new Apron looks like the after photo below.  Once she has this new Apron, the crabbers know that she has already laid her eggs and they are allowed to keep her.

female with eggs.jpg



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