Get the lowdown on the best time of year to catch, buy, cook, and eat crabs, from blue crabs in the Atlantic to Dungeness out West.

It should come as no surprise that crabs are best enjoyed when they're fresh and in season. The good news? You can get your hands on recently caught crab just about any time of the year, depending on the type of crab.

Knowing the season for each type will help you find—and look forward to—the freshest options, whether you're buying from the fish market or ordering them up at a restaurant.

When is Crab Season?

The primary season for all crab species is October to January when they are often at their largest and populations are highest after spawning. Some regions even stretch crabbing season into July.

Some of the largest crab-producing states, like Alaska and Maine, start crab season in the fall, around October, and end it as temperatures start climbing in early spring. Some Southern states have a year-round crab season, like Florida and South Carolina.

Some states have crabbing seasons during warmer months instead of winter, when crabs are more dormant and inactive. Maryland, for example, has a crabbing season that starts in April and ends in November.

South-of-the-Border Crab Boil
Credit: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Rachael Burrow

Do Your Research

Before you round up your nets, traps, and buoys, look into your state's fishing season and requirements. Most states list the season for each type of species they allow to be fished on fish and wildlife websites. Opening and closing dates, as well as size limits and bag limits, are also listed.

If your state requires a fishing license, make sure you have one for each fisher before hitting the water. Make sure also you don't need an additional license for crab fishing. Some states issue separate licenses for separate species.

Be sure to also keep tabs on changes to season ending dates. In some states, crab season will shorten if fish and wildlife experts detect a species' population number is too low. Likewise, some states will not open crab season if the population is threatened by overfishing. Fishing during these windows may be a criminal offense.