A year in the life of a blue crab

September is the best month for blue crabs, and here’s why.

Photo by Mike Ramm

September is the best month for blue crabs, as we already noted. Chris Moore, the senior regional ecosystem scientist at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, gives a quick rundown on the life cycle of a blue crab and why this is high season for the Chesapeake’s prized crustacean.

Winter (December-March)

This is when blue crabs burrow into the mud and semi-hibernate, becoming sedentary for almost four months.

Spring (April-May)

Blue crabs come out of hibernation. From this point on, the life of the female and male crabs vary drastically.

Female crabs forage for food and begin to produce egg masses to prepare to give birth (which happens through September).

Males are waiting for mating season.

Summer (May-August)

All blue crabs will molt, or shed the outermost layer of the shell, up to 20 times before adulthood. If the crab is harvested when it is molted, it’s known on menu boards as a soft-shell crab. During this season, females molt one final time before mating. Adult crabs will be in abundance during this period, making this high season for harvesting.

Fall (September-November)

After mating, female blue crabs migrate to lower waters of the Chesapeake Bay, closer to Virginia. The females won’t leave these waters again once they have released their larvae (aka when baby crabs are born). Males stay in the part of the Chesapeake closer to Maryland, and they won’t leave those waters again.

September is considered one of the best months for crabs because the female population of crabs is so high and they are big enough to be legally fished in the waters of the Chesapeake.