Recently molted, post-buckram, crabs have shells with a grayish cast on
their topsides and lustrous white abdomens. Called skinny, white, light, or clear crabs;
or whiteys, windjammers, snowballs, water galls, or white bellies, these crabs have not
fully fattened up inside their new shells and do not contain much meat. Later in the
intermolt period, crab abdomens take on the glazed and slightly stained look of aging
horses' teeth; often they are also spotted with "rust." These "old"
crabs are called fat or heavy crabs and are worth seeking.
The image on the left is that of a fat crab. He is showing a pink sign meaning he will probably molt in less than a
week. Note the rusty looking areas below his mouth and the dirty, aged, appearance of his
abdomen. This is a heavy jimmy, completely fattened up inside and ready for a new shell.
image on the right is that of a whitey. Note his clean, bright white, abdomen. This means
that he has recently molted (post buckram) and is wearing his new suit of armor. He has
not yet had a chance to fatten up inside and will contain about 1/3 less meat than his
counterpart on the left. Do yourself (and the crab) a favor and throw whitey back, for if
you cook him, he will most certainly be hollow (full of water) and contain very little meat.
This image shows a pink sign crab, meaning it will molt in less than a week. If you
look closely between the arrows you will note a very thin line about the size of a small
fingernail clipping, slightly pinkish in color. This line will grow progressively longer,
wider, and will turn from pink into a dark shade of red known as the red sign (meaning
that molting will occur in about two days.)
See Molting Signs for more information.
Most pink- and red-sign crabs will never make it to your table in the
form of a hard crab. Watermen will instead place them in special shedding floats (or
tanks) and allow them to molt and become soft crabs. Soft crabs are considered a delicacy
and demand a much higher price than their hard crab counterparts (soft crabs sell for as
much as $2 to $5 apiece whereas hard crabs sell for $1 to $2 each in retail markets.)