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Aug 28, 2012 09:29 AM

Best way to keep blue crabs alive?

Hi hounds,

hope to go crabbing next friday sep 6 and not cooking crabs till sunday. In the past I've put them in my big ass coleman cooler but crab dont last long either to cold or not enought O2 even keeping the lid cracked.

Thanks in advance


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  1. Ideally you need some kind of live tank, otherwise you should really be cooking the crab earlier than you intend. If you have access to an aquarium, that could be your solution, or there are instructions online on how to make one using something like a bin.

    1. I store them in a paper bag in the fridge, and they easily last 2 days. More than 2 is pushing it. The paper bag allows them to breathe. The best thing, for keeping crabs more than 24 hours, is to take them out each day and rinse them well in cold running water. If they are cold enough, they will not pinch. Unfortunately, since they are also too cold to move, its harder to tell dead ones apart from live ones. Throw away any that are noticeably lighter than they were, if they are limp. Look at the eye socket....the small antenna there should twitch occasionally. If you pull it out, it will go back in place if the crab is still alive. Many will drop their claws...just keep these claws refrigerated with the rest of the crabs, and don't worry. Since they are separate from the body, they won't get the autodigestive enzymes that ruin a dead crab....just don't keep them more than 2 days. Where are you going? I've had my 3rd good season in a row on the North Fork of LI, and its probably better the further south you go.

      1. Agree, you need a salt water tank with a pump, oxygen, etc. otherwise you should consider cooking the crabs ahead, you can certainly keep the meat for two days.

        1. If you think they're dying because of a lack of oxygen, simply go to the fishing section in Wal-Mart and get a Bubble Box. It's a box that pumps oxygen into the water where you hold your bait and keeps the water aerated. It costs about $13.

          4 Replies
          1. re: 1POINT21GW

            Because the crabs hold water within their shells, they can easily last 2 days out of water as long as they are exposed to oxygen. I used to keep my crabs in an empty 20 gal tank in my garage, and they would last at least 2 days. I prefer the fridge, though....keeps them dormant so that they need less O2. If you keep them in a tank of water, they will quickly use of the O2, so an aerator would be a necessity. Be prepared for lots of fighting, and dropped claws, however.

            1. re: EricMM

              Erik have all ways crabbed barnakit sp bay nj out of tradition with dad never more than 2.5 dozen. This time trying the Delaware beaver dam boat rentals Newport nj.


              1. re: don515

                Good area! You will probably get a hell of a lot of crabs there!

                1. re: EricMM


                  Did well 3 1/2 doz nice size crabs. I think it would have been more like 5 doz but first set of drop lines did not have enough weight and with strong current not touching bottom. keep this place in mind its a reserve not commercial crabbing permitted


          2. Don't go through all the fuss of a tank, aerator, etc etc.
            Put them in a baking pan and cover them with wet newspaper. Not a single or double sheet - use a *section* of newspaper (I dunno...the sports section, maybe the food&wine section'll work better). Get it good and wet by running under cold tap water. Open a few pages and let the water run inside.
            Put the crabs into a baking pan, cover with newspaper section, tuck edges into pan, place in fridge. If they're too fiesty, use a bucket and cover the crabs in that; push the wet paper right down onto the crabs, not just as a cover at the top, place in fridge.

            If you're keeping them longer, check by day 2 or 3 - you might have to re-wet the paper.
            I've kept lobster, rock crabs, and blue crabs alive for 4-5 days this way.

            If you put lobster in fresh water, they'll die pretty quick. I assume the same for crabs.

            3 Replies
            1. re: porker

              Thanks all!
              Porker yours sounds the best. Crabbing in NJ solid 6hr drive home to Pittsburgh is biggest concern Think I will ice bottom of cooler top ice with piece of plywood supported so it does not drop into the ice then layer with your wet sections of newspaper. If I do really well will pre clean some right on the dock.

              Thanks again

              1. re: porker

                Thanks Porker

                pulled back into the dock at 1230 last friday with 42 nice crabs. Ice on bottom of cooler covered with plywood. Layered crabs with sections on newpaper with seawater.Got back to Pittsburgh at 10pm moved the crabs to the vegtable bins in one of our fridges and layered with the same newspaper and turned fridge to a warmer temp.Started cooking at 3pm sun only lost 4 crabs and they were all on the bottom so probably just a pit too much water..

                Thanks Again


                1. re: don515

                  Been awhile since I had good crab. Did a combo crab/crawdad boil last year for my birthday....think I'll order soon (don't quite have the time to catch my own - wish I did!)