Soft shell crab facts

  • Female blue crabs have red tipped claws, male typically all blue.
  • Blue crabs may be found in other locations—larval and juvenile crabs have been known to attach themselves to ship hulls or be transported in a ship’s water ballast. They are sold live and may have been released in new areas.
  • Because of the crab’s physiology, there is a harvesting process that is unique to this fishery: the crab MUST be removed from the water immediately after shedding its shell. If it remains in the water the shell starts to harden. The shell will not harden our of water.
  • If the crab stays in the water just a short time after molting, the skin gets a bit tough and almost leathery. These crabs are called ‘tin backs’. They are still OK to use in the soft shell preparation but the carapace and legs will be a bit tougher.
  • Harvesting a soft shell is by luck. Commercially crabs are harvested during their hard shell stage and put into ‘shedding tanks’ on land with either filtered recalculating water or water circulated directly from the ocean or bay, or in floating cages called ‘shedding floats’ in bays or estuaries. In any method, the crabs must be checked every couple of hours to remove them at the peak of quality.
  • Soft shells can be found live, fresh in season or frozen year round.
John’s motto is ‘release it unharmed or do it justice on the plate.’ Executive Chef, photographer, and surfer, John photographs ocean marine life when he’s out fishing, and creates masterpieces in the kitchen with what he keeps on deck. His photo works have been used in OEHHA Fish Advisories, National Geographic presentations, and nonprofit marine life groups. When he’s not fishing, he’s making great BBQ. Visit him at, and send him a message using the contact form using the link above.