Florida Expecting Bumper Blue Crab Season


TALLAHASSEE -- Top producers in Florida expect this to be an above-average year for blue crab, thanks to plentiful rainfall.

"Our fishermen tell us that blue crabs are running larger than normal and are in excellent supply," Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson said.  "Blue crab populations tend to dip during drought years, but they rebound when the rains return.  Ample rainfall this spring and summer means there's been plenty of fresh water flowing into our bays and estuaries, creating ideal conditions for this prized species."

Florida blue crabs are readily available for consumers to enjoy.  According to reports, producers are bringing in large catches daily, and seafood markets and restaurants across the state are well stocked.

"This is a good year for blue crabs, and now is the best time to enjoy them," Bronson said. "Harvest peaks annually in summer and fall."

Blue crabs are commercially harvested with baited traps along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in bays, sounds, channels, and river mouths.  The bulk of the harvest comes from Wakulla, Citrus, and Duval counties.  With an annual dockside value of around $6 million, blue crab is one of Florida's top 10 seafood products.  It ranks fourth in terms of pounds harvested.

The blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) has a dark green or olive green hard shell and five pairs of bright blue legs.  The undersides of the body and legs are white.  Only the first pair of legs is equipped with pincers or claws.  Male and female claws are various shades of blue on the top, but the tips of the female's claws are bright red.

Blue crab is harvested and eaten in two stages of its lifecycle, when the exoskeleton is hard and also when it's soft.  The soft-shell blue crab is a hard-shell crab that has shed its shell by molting. "Peeler" crabs (crabs in the process of molting) are held in water-filled tanks and watched closely until they form their soft shells and shed their hard ones.  Then they are plucked out of the tanks and rushed to market. Soft-shell crabs are considered a delicacy and can be eaten shell and all.

Hard-shell crabs are sold live or steamed to restaurants and seafood markets.  They are also sold to picking houses, where the delicate meat is extracted from the shell, usually by hand.  Picked crab meat is available fresh or pasteurized.

Live blue crabs should have some leg movement when purchased.  Store them in a moist environment at 50 degrees Fahrenheit in a bag, cardboard box, or other breathable container.  Do not store them directly on ice.  Fresh blue crab meat should be stored on ice in the coldest part of the refrigerator and used within seven to 10 days.  Pasteurized blue crab meat in unopened containers can be stored up to six months in the coldest part of the refrigerator.  Once opened, pasteurized crab meat needs to be used within three days.

Sweet, creamy blue crab is high in protein and low in fat.  It contains calcium, iron, and vitamins as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to heart health.

Try these delicious recipes using blue crab developed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:

Bedeviled Blues Blue Crab:

Blue Crab and Broccoli Enchilada:

Boiled Blue Crab:

Hot Blues, Cool Reds:

Hot Blue Riffs:

Soft Blues Saute:

Florida Blue Crab Au Gratin:

Florida Blue Crab Salad With Avocado:

Florida Blue Crab Salad:

Florida Blue Crab Cakes with Tangy Butter Sauce:

Florida Blue Crab Imperial:

Florida Blue Crab Portabella:

Florida Blue Crab Croissant:

Florida Blue Crab Panini:

Fried Florida Soft-shell Blue Crab:

Florida Blue Crab Fritters:

Florida Blue Crab and Shrimp Pizza:

Blue Crab Stuffed Spiny Lobster:

Pompano with Blue Crab in Citrus Cream:
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