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Blue Crabs

Fishing Regulations Icon Delaware Fishing

A fishing license is required to crab in all waters of the State of Delaware.
The blue crab is common in all the tidal waters of Delaware. It is a popular recreational resource and tops the list of the State’s economically important marine fish and shellfish.

Blue crabs grow very quickly and reach maturity in 12 to 18 months. Most do not live beyond two years under current exploitation levels.

In order to grow, a blue crab must shed its shell and form a new shell. This process is repeated up to 18 times to attain maximum length. It is legal to take crabs at three stages, but to get the most yield in weight out of a crab, they should reach a minimum length before being harvested. This is measured from point to point of the top shell.

The minimum size for hard-shell blue crab is 5 inches, except mature females. Mature females (sooks) are identified by the rounded apron on their under side. Once this stage of development is achieved, females stop growing. Therefore, female blue crabs with a U-shaped apron may be retained at any size. Females bearing eggs, commonly known as sponge crabs, may not be taken and should be returned to the water immediately.

Recreational crabbers may not use, place, set or tend more than two pots. The person claiming to own the pots must be the one to set and tend them. These pots must be marked with all white buoys with the owner’s full name and permanent mailing address inscribed either on the buoy or on a waterproof tag attached to the buoy. All crab pots must be tended at least once every 72 hours. All crab pots must be removed from the water between December 1 and February 28. Recreational crabbers may use a trot line (no length limit) and any number of hand lines or traps. The recreational daily limit is one bushel per person.

A turtle by-catch reduction device is required to be attached in each funnel entrance of a recreational crab pot to reduce the possibility of diamondback terrapins entering and drowning. A by-catch reduction device is a rigid rectangular frame of plastic or metal that measures 1.75 inches x 4.75 inches and is available at local tackle shops, or can be hand-made from heavy (>11 gauge) wire or other suitable material.