When Is Crab Season?

Get to know the best time of year to catch, buy, cook, and eat crabs.

It should be no surprise that fresh and in-season crabs are best. The good news? You can get your hands on recently caught crab 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 at a restaurant.

A feast worth the journey at Old Salty's Restaurant
Chris M. Rogers

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. It depends on the area and specific type of crab to know when the season is and when crabs will be their freshest.

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, such as Florida and South Carolina, have a year-round crab season.

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
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 permitted fishing season for each type of species 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 also to 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 overfishing threatens the population. Fishing during these windows may be a criminal offense.

When To Eat Crabs

Depending on the variety and location, hard and soft shell crabs might be available, but there are different times when it is best to eat. Here is when to eat hard or soft shell crabs:

Hard Shell Crabs

Early fall is the best time of year to catch and eat hard shell crabs, particularly Maryland Blue Crabs. In September and October, crabs tend to be larger, so each crab contains more weight.

Crab available in supermarkets or restaurants earlier in the season might be crab that did not migrate over the winter.

Soft Shell Crabs

Soft shell crabs are available in five categories: mediums, hotels, primes, jumbos, and whales. Mediums range from three and a half to four inches, while whales are crab over five and a half inches, on average.

These crabs tend to be more expensive because there is a short window when a crab sheds its shell for harvesting. This crab season begins in May and ends in September. You can typically purchase these crabs in specialty fish markets.

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