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How To Keep Blue Crabs Alive

Discussion in 'Scalloping, Lobstering, Crabbing, Claiming' started by Nautical Gator, Nov 15, 2015.

  1. Nautical Gator

    Nautical Gator Forum Captain, Moderator, Peacekeeper Staff Member
    Thread Started By

    Originally posted by ntgator on our forum

    How to Keep Blue Crabs Alive
    If you are not able to cook all the crabs you catch when you go crabbing, don't worry, blue crabs can stay alive for days as long as they are kept in the proper environment. The first step to keeping the crabs alive is to be sure you keep them cool and wet while on the boat. Be mindful of keeping them out of the sun if possible. Use the lid of your bushel basket if you do not have a cover on your boat. I recommend a wooden bushel basket and a burlap sack to keep the crabs in the ideal environment. Before you begin crabbing, dip the bushel basket and lid in the water. The wooden bushel basket will retain the moisture for a while after. Also, you can pour some water over the crabs and soak the burlap sack in water throughout the day and keep it on top of the crabs to keep them cool, calm, shaded and happy.

    When you get the crabs home, never keep the crabs submerged in water or they will die. As crazy as this sounds, crabs will not survive in a bucket of water. Crabs breathe air and if they are kept in a bucket, cooler, or anything else where they are submerged, the crabs will take up all the oxygen in the water and die. The only safe place to keep them in water is in a holding cage in the body of water where they were caught, attached to a pier or the side of your boat.

    t home, you'll want to keep the crabs in an environment where the temperature is around 48-58 degrees. A good place would be outside in the shade if it is a cool night, or in the lower level of your house. You can leave the crabs in the bushel baskets with wet burlap on top of the baskets. If you don't have a burlap sack on hand, many crabbers use wet newspaper to keep the crabs cool. You want to maintain a dark, cool and moist environment to keep the crabs alive. Just keep in mind that the crabs need air too. Do not put them in a sealed container or a cooler with the lid shut. You can keep the crabs in a cooler, just remember to keep the lid cracked open so they can get air. Also a sealed bag of ice on top or on the bottom of the crabs will help keep them cool. If you do this, be sure to keep the cooler tilted and the drain open so the water can run out.

    You could also keep live crabs in a refrigerator or walk-in box if you have one available. If you do this, you have to make adjustments to the temperature and moisture level of the fridge. Crabs need air and moisture to survive. If all the air and moisture is completely taken out of the fridge you will lose some crabs. In this type of environment, typically the smaller crabs will live longer while some of the bigger crabs won't make it.
    Srfrdave and paleoman like this.
  2. brandonsdad

    brandonsdad Blackbeard

    I know it sound disgusting but the crisper drawer of the fridge is a suitable place to keep crabs alive for a couple of days. layer 4-5 crabs, then wet newspaper and layer 4-5 again. If you pack too may in the same layer they will fight and kill each other. Like gator said; never submerge them in water "NEVER EVER"!!! Also, add garlic to the butter, maybe some old bay and parsley flakes.
  3. TomD

    TomD Pirate

    Thanks for that information. I would also remind folks that they can crawl out of things so make sure they are properly covered. I also put ice on them if I have some available. Not tons of it but enough to help cool and keep things moist.
  4. kayakmike

    kayakmike Treasure Hunter

    Never cooked crabs,,,how do u cook hem???
  5. Ken Boone

    Ken Boone Seaman Recruit

    Depends if you want to crack and eat 'em now or clean and keep the meat for recipes. To eat now, we steam them in a covered pot with a couple bottles of beer with Old Bay sprinkled on 'em. Don't kill them first, it's like lobster, put the suckers in and they will eventually kick the bucket. Don't need a lot of beer, just enough to keep the steam doming in the pot.
  6. TomD

    TomD Pirate

    Zatarain's is about as easy as it gets. There are other crab boils on the market also and they work with shrimp too. I also like to throw in some Corn on the Cob and other such stuff.
  7. Stan T

    Stan T Pirate

    If the crabs are always underwater how do they get air in the natural environment? Can you keep them alive with an aerator like in a bait well?
  8. dasugaman101

    dasugaman101 Pirate in the making

    Nice post! Thanks for the tips
  9. harry hall

    harry hall Pirate

    yes but it is a lot of trouble (for more that one day), you cannot use tap water. you must keep it cool. plus you must either filter the water or change it out. i have kept them in an old fridge this way for a week but it is a pItA . Simply not worth the trouble given the above alternative method. oh, they have gills for underwater ... i think that is why you have to keep em moist 'cause the gills dry out, right ?
  10. kirk_wgnr

    kirk_wgnr Greenhorn

    great post thanks for the tips this will help a lot
  11. thegoschman

    thegoschman Newbie

    Hey All! If I use a cooler with frozen water bottles on the bottom and some moist towels on the bottles, do I need to layer the crabs with moist towels between each layer of crabs or just fill the cooler w/crabs and then place a moist towel on top of them?


  12. bogman102

    bogman102 Seaman

    Just a moist towel on top will do! That is all I have ever done. The crabs will survive a couple days like that
    Just make sure there is still ice in the water bottles and keep the cooler in the shade.
  13. thegoschman

    thegoschman Newbie

    Excellent! Thanks for the info!!!
  14. Gary F Ball

    Gary F Ball Junior Member

    And don't forget Old Bay seasoning, one of the best
  15. Stan T

    Stan T Pirate

    Nice to have experienced guys educate us...
  16. magdrill

    magdrill Pirate in the making

    I got a system that works great. It keeps them alive up to 3 days with little dead loss.
    Just a wooden box in an old cooler. The stays on the sides and never touches the crabs. Put some wet burlap on top and crack the lid and your all set. It’ll hold 1.5 bushels


    Gary F Ball and Nautical Gator like this.
  17. whitness

    whitness Newbie

    If you can get it, putting some fresh seaweed on top of the crabs helps retain moisture.

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