Apron - Abdominal covering on the ventral (bottom) side of the crab. Sometimes called the tail. Female crabs carry eggs
under the apron, which becomes distended as eggs mature. See Blue Crab Identification for more
Atlantic Blue Crab - Known by its scientific name Callinectes sapidus.
Backfin - The swimming or paddle fin. The rear-most fin of the crab which has a flat, oval shaped swimming paddle. Also
a type of crabmeat.
Ballies - See Sponge Crab.
Bimbo - Slang term referring to a female blue crab.
Brackish-Water Crabs - Crabs that migrate up-estuary to low-salinity waters during the warm months.
Buck and Rider - See Doubler.
Buckram - Soft crab just past the paper-shell stage. Crab has a crinkly-hard, leathery, semi-hard shell, about 12 to 24
hours after molting. A buckram's shell has gotten too hard and is therefore unmarketable as a soft crab.
Buckshot Disease - See Salt & Pepper Disease.
Buffalo Crab - Soft crab with the claws or legs missing; doorknob.
Busted Sook - See Sponge Crab.
Buster - Crab in an advanced stage of molting wherein the old exoskeleton has cracked under the lateral spines. Term also
applies to molting crabs that died during the shedding process but were salvaged by the crabber for home consumption.
Callinectes sapidus - Scientific name of the Atlantic blue crab. Callinectes is Greek for beautiful swimmer and sapidus
is Latin for tasty or savory.
Carapace - Top part of the shell or hard covering of the blue crab.
Carriers - See Doubler.
Car-Worm Crab - A crab that has remained in the shedding flats for two or more weeks without shedding. Worn spots on the
sternum are common. Many of these crabs appear to be infested with chitonoclastic bacteria which produce pits in the exoskeleton
and which may inhibit molting.
Channeler or Chandler - Large male crab that remains in the deeper channels of a bay or river.
Chicken Necker - A regional term (sometimes derogatory) denoting someone who fishes for crabs using chicken necks for bait,
also used to describe non-resident weekend crabbers.
Clear Crab - See Whitey.
Cradle Carrying - See Doubler.
Crustacea - Class of invertebrates to which the Atlantic blue crab belongs.
Dead Man's Fingers - Elongated spongy-looking organs; gills. The term probably refers to
the fact that the gray "shriveled" gills vaguely resemble the fingers of a dead person. They are not poisonous but do have an unpleasant
taste and texture. Remove and discard when cleaning crabs.
Doorknob - See Buffalo Crab.
Doubler - A male crab carrying a sexually mature female underneath him; a pair of mating crabs; buck
and rider or carrier.
Dwarf Female - A small but sexually mature female blue crab.
Ecdysis - Molting. The act of shedding the old shell when it is outgrown.
Will result in a crab about one-third larger in size. The new shell takes two to three days to harden.
Eelgrass - A submerged long-leafed monocotyledonous marine plant (Zostera marina) of the eelgrass family that is
abundant along the Atlantic coast and has stems used especially in woven products (as mats and hats).
Fat Crab - Crab that is nearing the end of its intermolt cycle meaning that it has fully fattened
up inside (full of meat) and is in need of a new, larger shell. Fat crabs have yellow-brown "rusty" coloration on the ventral
side indicating an "old" shell; heavy crab. Click here to see images.
Green Crab or Greens - Crab between molts; non-peeler crab; sometimes refers to a white sign crab; sometimes refers
to a raw (uncooked) crab.
Hard Crab or Hard Shell Crab - Crab with a fully hardened shell, usually within four days after molting.
Heavy Crab - See Fat Crab.
Jimmy Crab or Jimmy Dick - A male blue crab, distinguishable by its T-shaped apron. See Blue
Crab Identification for more information.
Lemon Bellies - See Sponge Crab.
Length - What most people would call the width. It is measured across the top shell between the two lateral (outermost)
Light Crab - See Whitey.
Lungs - Sometimes mistakenly used when referring to the crab's gills. See Dead Man's Fingers.
Marsh (Swamp) Crab - A blue crab with dark brown coloration; usually caught in organic-rich, shallow tidal channels and
ponds of the marsh and swamps bordering an estuary.
Megalopa - Final larval stage, between zoea and crab stage.
Molt or Moult - See Ecdysis.
Mumbo - An especially large blue crab. Slang term coined by member Rick Hakun (a.k.a. kingcrabber.) The term is a combination
of the words "massive" and "jumbo."
Mustard - The yellowish substance found inside a cooked crab. Contrary to popular belief, the "mustard" is not
fat, rather it's the crab's hepatopancreas, the organ responsible for filtering impurities from the crab's blood. Although many find
its flavor distinct and delicious, it is recommended that you do not eat this since many chemical contaminants concentrate in this
Nicking - To break the movable finger of the claws to prevent their use.
Painted Fingernails - All female crabs "paint their fingernails"; i.e., they have bright red claw tips. Males
have blue claws.
Paper Shell - Soft crab about 9 to 12 hours after molting. Shell is slightly stiff.
Peeler Crab - Along the Chesapeake Bay this term is applied to all shedding crabs caught by soft-shell fishermen. Rarely
used by Gulf coast crabbers.
Pepper Crabs - See Salt & Pepper Disease.
Pepper Spot Disease - See Salt & Pepper Disease.
Picking - The art of eating a steamed hard crab by picking out the meat.
Pink Sign, Pink Rim or Pink Line Crab - A pink line that appears along the inner border of the back fin (paddle)
about one week before molt. The line marks the appearance of the new shell underneath its present hard shell; seconds. Click
here to see images.
Portunids - Members of the swimming crab family to which the Atlantic Blue Crab belongs.
Punk Crab - See Sponge Crab.
Rank or Rank Peeler - Red sign peeler, already weak, approximately two hours prior to molt.
Red Sign, Red Rim or Red Line Crab - Hard crabs which will molt in less than two days. Amateurs can usually detect
the red sign, but with a lot of practice. See also white sign and pink sign. Click here to see images.
Rusty Crab - See Fat Crab.
Sally Crab - Young, immature, female crab. Has a triangular shaped apron; she-crab. See Blue
Crab Identification for more information.
Salt & Pepper Disease - A crab which has been infected with parasites which appear
as small dark specks throughout its meat. See Crab Diseases. Also called buckshot disease, pepper
spot disease, or pepper crabs.
Seconds - Crabs that have just turned from a white sign to a pink sign; pink sign crabs.
She-Crab - See Sally Crab.
Skinny Crab - See Whitey.
Snots - Also known as white sign or greens. In times past crabbers broke a joint of the cheliped or
claw leg to see if the crab was developing a second skin underneath, in which case it was judged a peeler. Unattractive as it is,
the term snot is a highly descriptive holdover from this ancient practice, from the fluid that emerged at the break. Today,
watermen simply look for the white sign.
Snowball - See Whitey.
Soft Crab or Soft Shell Crab - Crab which has shed its shell. Less than 12 hours after molting. A delicacy in which
the entire crab, paper-thin shell and all, is eaten. Soft crab season is marked by the first full moon in May and continues through
Sook - Sexually mature (adult) female crab. Has bell-shaped abdominal apron. See Blue Crab
Identification for more information.
Sponge Crab - Female crab which is carrying eggs (roe) under her abdominal apron. Illegal to catch
or possess in most areas. Also called a sponge, berried, orange, lemon, or punk crab, or a ballie or busted sook.
Terminal Molt - The final molt, usually associated with the female because, at this time, mating takes place while she is
in the soft shell state. Following this molt, the female is mature and usually impregnated and will focus all of her energy toward
producing eggs and spawning (and not muscle growth.) Therefore this molt will most likely be her last.
Ticky Crab - A crab that smells of iodoform (iodine), probably because of eating the marine bottom worm Balanoglossus.
Tin Crab - See Whitey.
Water Gall - A cooked crab that contains a lot of water. This is because a recently molted crab uses water to inflate and
fill the voids of its new, larger shell. When cooked and cracked open, water pours from within. Often mistakenly attributed to poor
cooking technique. See also Whitey.
Windjammer - See Whitey.
White Belly - See Whitey.
White Crab - See Whitey.
White Sign, White Rim or White Line Crab - Also known as snots or greens. The white sign is simply the first faint
outline of the second exoskeleton or new skin forming underneath the old as molting approaches. It is very hard for laymen to distinguish.
It usually appears about two weeks prior to molting.
Whitey - Recently molted, post-buckram crab with a grayish cast on its topside and lustrous white abdomen.
This crab has not fully fattened up inside its new shell and does not contain much meat. A very light or hollow crab. Also called
a clear, white, or skinny crab; or a snowball, water gall, windjammer or white belly. Click here to see images.
Zoea - The larva that hatches from the egg and continues until the megalopa stage.