5 Best Florida Crabs: Types, Hotspots & Catching Tips

Florida offers a variety of crabs, from the common Atlantic blue crab to elusive golden crabs, each with unique habitats and catching methods for enthusiasts to enjoy fresh Florida crab.

types of crabs in florida 5 Best Florida Crabs: Types, Hotspots & Catching Tips

Florida boasts a variety of crabs, including blue crabs and golden crabs, along its beaches and coastal regions. As an experienced local, I can attest to the abundance of these delicious crustaceans near shorelines and in deeper waters. If you’re interested in catching some delectable Florida crabs, this guide will cover the types to look for, their habitats, and catching methods. With over a dozen species in the state, from the common Atlantic blue crab to rarer finds, this guide will focus on seven of the most likely encounters for crabbing enthusiasts in the Sunshine State. Enjoy fresh Florida crab with ease!

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Atlantic Blue Crab

Callinectes sapidus, the Atlantic blue crab, or regionally as the Chesapeake blue crab.

The Atlantic blue crab is the most common edible crab in Florida. As a result, it’s not unusual to find Florida grocery stores and restaurants selling this type of crab, either fresh-caught or freshly prepared. 

As you might suspect, this crab gets its name from its bright blue claws. These claws are the primary target for crabbers, although the body meat is equally prized and delicious.

This crab can grow up to 9 inches across, so it’s not the largest type of Florida crab you can find. But these crabs are plentiful, which is why they’re one of the most popular choices among crabbers.

You can catch these crabs by casting nets or lines off of coastal fishing piers, and they’re in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic shorelines. Recreational anglers should remember to complete their online registration before catching these crabs.

Florida Stone Crab

Florida stone crab claws

When it comes to claw size, it’s hard to beat the Florida stone crab (Menippe mercenaria). This crustacean can develop claws over 5 inches long. For perspective, some Florida crabs have a total body size half that length!

One of the unique aspects of this crab is its ability to regenerate lost limbs. You can harvest a Florida stone crab’s claw, toss it back into the water, and it’ll be ready for re-harvesting in a few years.

You can catch these crabs using traps, although you can also dive down and grab them yourself if you have snorkeling equipment. As with Atlantic blue crabs, anglers must complete an online registration form before setting out stone crab traps.

Golden Crab

While the Atlantic blue crab and Florida stone crab tend to reside fairly close to shore, making them easy catches for interested anglers and crabbers, the golden crab is a bit trickier. That said, it’s one of the largest crabs you can find along Florida’s coastlines.

This elusive (but tasty) Florida crab can lurk thousands of feet beneath the salty ocean waters, and it prefers living far from the foamy shorelines. Consequently, you’ll likely need to have a boat available (and some sizeable deep-sea crab traps) to harvest these crabs.

Atlantic Sand Fiddler Crab

Fiddler crabs on Ono Island, Orange Beach, Alabama

The Atlantic sand fiddler crab (Leptuca pugilator) has a distinct look that differentiates it from other Florida crabs. 

For a start, this crab has protruding eyes that sit outside its body, elevated on wiggling eyestalks. Secondly, this crab has one large claw that’s almost half its body size, making it easy to identify.

Although you won’t often find these crabs scurrying along the shorelines of major Florida beaches, they are common inhabitants of marshy inlets. So, wherever the salty ocean water meets freshwater rivers, you’ll likely find the Atlantic sand fiddler crab enjoying a brackish lifestyle.

But the Atlantic sand fiddler crab is more of a treat for your eyes than your stomach. Although they possess a large claw that can be tempting for crabbers, they rarely ever grow beyond 2 inches in size, making them poor choices for crab meat.

Sand Crab

sand crab

You’ll find two main species of sand crab in Florida (Emerita benedicti and Emerita talpoida), and neither makes for great eats.

This tiny crab (also called a sand flea) is only a few centimeters long. Consequently, you won’t be able to harvest much meat from these creatures. In fact, sand crabs don’t have claws!

Their tiny bodies are fairly oblong and roundish, resembling a tiny pod more than a squarish claw-wielding crab. While these crabs are prevalent throughout Florida’s coastal areas (you can find them pretty much anywhere there’s wet sand), they’re often ignored by crabbers due to their comparative lack of edibility.

Harris Mud Crab

If you’re exploring Florida’s estuaries, you might come across the Harris mud crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii). This tiny brown crab also inhabits the gulf coastlines, particularly areas where the gulf waters travel inland via brackish rivers and inlets.

This crab is popular among anglers, as it’s small and plentiful enough to become an excellent bait source. That said, the Harris mud crab’s tiny size doesn’t make it the best choice for eating.

These crabs don’t tend to congregate on exposed shorelines. Instead, they hide among rocks or shell piles. Because these creatures enjoy eating decaying organic matter and algae, you can often find them along estuary river bottoms. 

Horseshoe Crab

Horseshoe Crap

One of the most instantly recognizable types of crabs you’ll find in Florida is the horseshoe crab. This crab has a distinctly prehistoric look, with an armored body and a skate-like tail. Only when you flip this creature over will you be able to spot its crabby claws.

These crabs cluster in shallow coastal areas, though they occasionally make beach appearances, especially when the tides change. These “living fossils” are semi-protected in Florida, so you might need a special license before harvesting horseshoe crabs.

However, the horseshoe crab isn’t the in-demand type of crab (in terms of eating), especially in North America. So, if you’re looking to harvest crabs for eating, you might want to skip this species.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have further questions about the types of crabs you can find in Florida’s waters? If so, don’t hesitate to check out these frequently asked questions (and their answers)!

What crabs are local to Florida?

Nearly all the crabs in Florida are native to the state or introduced so long ago that they’ve essentially become native creatures! 

One of the primary exceptions to this is the European green crab (Carcinus maenas), an invasive species that’s been spotted more regularly along Florida’s coastlines over the last few years.

What edible crabs are in Florida?

Technically, all crabs you’ll find in Florida are edible, and that said, some are too small to make for a good meal. The most popular for-eating crabs in the Sunshine State are the Atlantic blue crab, stone crab, and golden crab. 

What kind of crabs are on Florida beaches?

Florida’s beaches are home to various crabs, including sand crabs, hermit crabs, and blue crabs. The Atlantic sand fiddler crab also prefers living in wet sand, and you might spy a few of these crabs while crabbing along Florida’s beaches.

More FAQs

What kind of crabs do you catch in Florida?

The crabs that are caught in Florida include two species of stone crabs: the Gulf Shore Stone Crab and the Florida Stone Crab. These crabs are recognized for their robust claws, which make up over half of their overall weight. They utilize their two claws, one for crushing and the other for tearing, for both feeding and self-defense purposes.

Are Florida land crabs edible?

Florida land crabs can be consumed, specifically the meat found in their claws and legs.

Are Florida spider crabs edible?

Florida spider crabs are edible and safe to eat. They are commonly consumed in various regions, particularly in East Asia, due to their delicate flavor and nutritional benefits. However, it is worth noting that while spider crabs are generally safe for consumption, there have been instances of individuals experiencing allergic reactions to them.

What are the small crabs on Florida Beach?

The small crabs found on Florida beaches are known as Sand Crabs, which are also referred to as mole crabs or sand fleas. These crustaceans are typically smaller than a human thumb, and the two main species that are commonly found on Florida beaches are Emerita talpoida and Emerita benedicti.

What are the tiny white crabs in Florida?

The tiny white crabs in Florida are known as Ghost Crabs. They are called Ghost Crabs because they emerge at night and have a white coloration. These crabs are also referred to as sand crabs due to their ability to blend into the sandy environment they inhabit. In Florida, we have observed and captured Ghost Crabs of various sizes, ranging from smaller than a dime to several inches in diameter.

What are the clear crabs in Florida?

The clear crabs in Florida are known as Ghost Crabs. These small crustaceans are almost transparent and can be found scuttling between the ocean and their burrows in the sand. During the night, they make their way across the beach to wet their gills in the lapping waves.

Are blue crab good to eat?

Blue crabs are good to eat because they have a sweet, delicate flavor and tender meat, which is why they are highly valued. Their scientific name, Callinectes sapidus, translates to “savory beautiful swimmer,” highlighting their deliciousness. Additionally, their paddle-shaped back legs contribute to their excellent swimming abilities.

What types of crab are caught for food in Florida?

The types of crab that are caught for food in Florida include stone crabs, which are mostly found in far south Florida and are popular in coastal regions. Additionally, blue crabs are the most common type of crab in Florida. Other types of crabs caught for food in Florida include fiddler crabs, hermit crabs, green crabs, Harris mud crabs, spider crabs, and Atlantic ghost crabs.

Are there edible crabs in Florida?

There are edible crabs in Florida, such as the Florida stone crab. These crabs are in season from mid-October to mid-May. You can try using stone crab meat in recipes that call for lobster. While you may be familiar with local favorites like the blue crab or snow crab, you can also find the elusive Florida stone crab in seafood markets in the area.

What is the most common crab in Florida?

The most common crab in Florida is the blue crab, which can be found throughout the state. Although they primarily inhabit saltwater environments, they are also capable of surviving in freshwater. Blue crabs can be found along Florida’s extensive coastline as well as in its rivers and backwaters.

What is the most common crab on the beach?

The most common crab found on the beach is the shore crab, which is typically green-ish in color. These crabs are easily spotted in rockpools or can be caught using crab lines in shallow waters.

Is it legal to catch blue crab in Florida?

It is legal to catch blue crab in Florida, but it is recommended to release non-egg bearing female blue crabs as a conservation practice since they contribute to the population of the species.

Can you eat spider crab?

Spider crab can be eaten and is safe for consumption. It is commonly consumed in various regions worldwide, particularly in East Asia. This type of crab is renowned for its subtle flavor and nutritional benefits. While it is generally considered safe to eat, there have been occasional reports of allergic reactions in some individuals.

What does a Florida stone crab look like?

A Florida stone crab looks like a crustacean that has a brownish red color with grey spots, and its claws are of unequal size with black tips.

What are the little white crabs on the beach?

The little white crabs on the beach are ghost crabs, which are small, almost see-through crustaceans that constantly move between the ocean and their sand burrows.

What kind of crab is in Gulf Coast?

The Gulf Coast is home to various types of crabs, including hermit crabs, ghost crabs, and blue crabs, which are frequently spotted along beaches and marshes. Additionally, the northern Gulf of Mexico is known to have only two species of lobster.

Can you eat Gulf Stone Crab?

Gulf Stone Crab is a type of crab that can be found along the Gulf Coast. Since 1984, the commercial harvest of stone crabs has increased, and they have become a popular seafood delicacy in Texas.

What are the small sand crabs in Florida?

The small sand crabs found in Florida are commonly referred to as mole crabs or sand fleas. These crustaceans are typically smaller than a human thumb and can be identified as either Emerita talpoida or Emerita benedicti, which are the two predominant species found on Florida beaches. They have a silvery or white color and appear to be transparent.

What are the small black crabs in Florida?

The small black crabs found in Florida are known as mangrove tree crabs (Aratus pisonii). They can be found in the mangrove forests of Florida, as well as in various regions of Central and South America.

What kind of crabs are on Destin Beach?

The most common crabs found on Destin Beach are Big Blue Crabs. They are known for their sweet, delicate, and mild-tasting meat. Despite their name, they actually have a greenish blue color, although males have more blue tones on their legs.

What are the white crabs in Florida?

The white crabs in Florida are known as ghost crabs. They are characterized by their pale white color, which makes them hard to spot on the sugar white sand beaches of Gulf Islands. Their square-shaped body is supported by six yellowish legs, and they have stalked eyes. Additionally, ghost crabs have one claw that is larger than the other, making them easily identifiable.

What is the difference between Gulf Stone Crab and Florida stone crab?

The difference between Gulf Stone Crab and Florida Stone Crab is that the Gulf Stone Crab has a carapace that is dark brownish red, while the Florida Stone Crab has a carapace that is tan or gray in color. Additionally, the Gulf Stone Crab does not have bands or stripes around its legs like the Florida Stone Crab. It is worth noting that hybridization occurs in areas where the two species overlap off the northwest coast of Florida.

What is the app that identifies crabs?

The app that identifies crabs is called Crabifier, which is a mobile application available for Android users. It is a free and precise tool specifically designed for mangrove crab farmers to accurately identify the species of juvenile crablets belonging to the genus Scylla.

How do you tell the difference between true crabs and false crabs?

The difference between true crabs and false crabs can be determined by observing their tails. True crabs have tails that are flattened and completely tucked under their carapace, while false crabs have tails with a fan on the end. Therefore, true crab tails are devoid of fans.

How do you identify a ghost crab?

To identify a ghost crab, you can look for the following features: a pale square-shaped body supported by six yellowish legs. These mesopredators have stalked eyes and possess one claw that is larger than the other. Additionally, you can recognize ghost crabs by the distinctive tracks they leave behind in the sand, which resemble rows of widely spaced commas.

What is the most common type of crab?

The most common type of crab is the Dungeness crab, which can be found along the Pacific Coast of the U.S. These crabs are abundant and are often brown or purple in color. They are larger than many common varieties like the Blue crab, but their legs are much shorter compared to the largest varieties such as Snow or King crab.

What does a porcelain crab look like?

A porcelain crab, also referred to as the broad-clawed porcelain crab, possesses a small body covered in minuscule hairs. Its coloration is brown, and it features large, flattened claws adorned with hair. These crabs typically inhabit rocky shores, specifically under rocks and boulders. Due to their effective camouflage, spotting them can be challenging.

What does a land crab look like?

A land crab looks like the giant land crab, which is the largest semi-terrestrial crab found in Florida. It can have a carapace measuring up to 6 inches (15 cm) across. In its juvenile stage, the crab can be dark brown, purple, or orange in color, while as an adult, it takes on a bluish-gray hue.

How do you identify rock crabs?

Rock crabs can be identified by their black-tipped claws, wide fan-shaped carapace, and deep, brick-red color. They are typically found in harder substrate habitats such as rocks, pilings, and other structures.

What are the tiny edible crabs?

The tiny edible crabs are known as pea crabs. Despite their appearance, pea crabs are highly regarded as a delicacy and should be savored. Both historians and food enthusiasts concur that stumbling upon a pea crab is not only a delightful indulgence but also a fortunate omen. The presence of pea crabs indicates the existence of thriving oyster populations in clean and superior water conditions.

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