What Is The Legal Size For Blue Crabs? (In Each State)

When it comes to the blue crab’s aggressive nature and appearance, you might think that these crabs are not likely to be caught. However, despite these reasons, the blue crab is a delicious and sought-after delicacy for recreational anglers who will opt for this easy catch any day.

In most states of America, it is against the law to catch or possess a crab measuring less than 5-inches from spike to spike across the spine. However, it is not unlawful to accidentally catch smaller crabs; it is essential to return them immediately should they not meet the requirements.

Blue crabs come in various sizes and forms, including hard and soft shell blue crabs, each with specific qualities. Therefore, it is the law that the minimum size of 5-inches will apply. So, is this law applicable in all states in the US, and what else applies to harvesting blue crabs?

The Legal Size Limit For A Blue Crab

Distinguishing the male blue crab from the female is easy by observing their abdomens’ shape. The males are also more prominent in scale, reaching around 7 to 8 inches. Recreational anglers have specific legal laws to obey regarding harvesting this beautiful blue crab species.

It is prohibited that any crab (Callinectes sapidus) measures less than the legal size of 5 inches in most states in the US. However, temporarily taking crabs of a smaller scale for fishing operations is not illegal. Therefore, returning smaller blue crabs immediately to the water would be the best option.

In addition, any person that chooses to violate this law by stating the legal size of blue crabs will be guilty of a misdemeanor. In addition, paying a fine requires between twenty-five to five hundred dollars. There is also a possibility of going to jail for around thirty days.

The American States And Their Blue Crab Regulations

There are so many states in America, each having its laws regarding the unique blue crab species. In addition, the applicable American state will have ocean borders where harvesting blue crabs are allowed. Therefore, let us discuss a few harvesting regulations relating to blue crab legal sizes.

Blue Crab Regulation In The State Of Alabama

Blue crabs in Alabama are allowed by a size limit of around 5-inches across the broadest part of the crab’s back. However, premolt crabs harvested for shedding are excluded and do not have to obey this 5-inch rule. In addition, any crab solely used as bait does not have to follow the legal size law.

Blue Crab Regulation In The State Of Georgia

Possessing a crab with a size less than 5 inches are not permitted. However, peelers may measure a length of around 3 inches, and no egg-bearing crabs are allowed. In addition, recreational crabbers are not allowed to take more than one-bushel crabs in 24 hours.

Blue Crab Regulation In The State Of Louisiana

Interestingly, Louisiana has no specific legal size for blue crabs. However, the possession limit for a person is around 12 dozen per day. In addition, it is illegal to harvest any blue female crab while in the egg-bearing stage.

Blue Crab Regulation In The State Of Long Island, New York

As of 2016, there is a size limit of around 4.5 inches for hard-shell blue crabs and 3.5 inches for soft-shell blue crabs. In addition, there is a daily possession limit of approximately 50 blue crabs per person. It is also not permitted to take any crab with eggs.

Blue Crab Regulation In The State Of Delaware

In the state of Delaware, the legal size for peelers are around 3 inches, soft shell blue crabs are about 3.5 inches, and hard shell blue crabs have a legal size of 5 inches. Remember, this state requires a fishing license for crabbing in all waters.

Blue Crab Regulation In The State Of Maryland

The size limit for the hard-shell male blue crab is around 5-5 ¼ inches, soft-shell blue crab is about 3 ½ inches, and the peeler crab varies around 3 inches. Interestingly, there is no size limit for the adult female crab.

In addition, every state in America has its specific laws when it comes to the crabbing industry. As a result, when choosing to go crabbing, getting to know the regulations first is essential. Especially when you are recreational fishers or just the simple pleasures of daily fun. You can get more blue crab regulation info on the following example states here: Texas, Long Island, or Louisiana.

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How To Measure The Blue Crab

Identifying a blue crab is essential before trying to measure them. Spotting the bluish-purplish tint on the blue crab’s shell and legs makes them so beautiful and unique. Usually, you measure a blue crab across the width of its shell and not across the length of the body.

With the shell side facing you, spread the crab’s legs and claws out. Using a measuring tape, you can now measure the width of the crab’s shell. Remember that knowing how to measure a blue crab is essential to obeying the legal size law.

What Are The Laws For Harvesting Female Blue Crabs?

It is permitted and advised to throw back all female crabs carrying eggs. Female blue crabs are preferred because they are fattier. However, taking female crabs in fisheries is illegal because it can influence the support for population growth.

Mainly in the southern and eastern US, where the harvesting of blue crabs is more common, the law states that immediately throwing back all female crabs is essential. Some laws also restrict the number of female crabs you can keep.

Why Is The Blue Crab So Important?

The blue crab species is essential, for example, in the Chesapeake Bay food web because they play both roles of predator and prey. As part of the Bay’s planktonic community, blue crab larvae serve as food for menhaden, oysters, and other filter feeders.

The juvenile blue crabs are food sources for fish, birds, and other blue crab species. They are also part of a shark’s diet, making them a key component in the food chain of the underwater world.

The Different Sizes Of Blue Crabs

There are various sizes of blue crabs, and a certain amount of similar-sized crabs are typically packed in one basket. This container is called a bushel and weighs approximately 40 lbs. each without the container. Below is a table showing the different blue crab sizes per bushel:

The Size NameThe Crab DimensionsCrabs Per Bushel
Number One6 ½ or more inches48 – 60 crabs
Number Two6 – 6 ½ inches60 – 72 crabs
Number Three5 ½ – 6 inches72 – 84 crabs
Number Four5 – 5 ½ inches84 – 96 crabs


Whether it is Texas, Maryland, or even the beautiful state of Georgia, obeying their laws when crabbing is essential. Catching or possessing any blue crabs with a legal size of fewer than 5 inches is not permitted. Additionally, taking a female egg-bearing crab is not allowed because of the rapid decrease in population.

Remember that anyone breaking this law can be charged with a misdemeanor. However, each state has its regulations and restrictions. Whether it is only 10 bushels per day and no size limit, or specifically a crab not smaller than 5 inches, any law is essential, and following them is crucial.