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What's the best way to catch a horseshoe crab?

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#16 jimmy z

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Posted May 15 2011 - 4:30 AM

That is why I asked. They really aren't edible, and even if one could pick put the legs, one would need many, many legs to have anything substantial to eat . So, than taking five would not be worth the effort for to eat, right? If they are endangered, than we need to let them be. Here on SOL, we are conservation minded. And I myself believe we need to be good stewards of what the Lord gives us. Including Horseshoe crabs. They have a purpose in this cycle of life!:)

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#17 doughboy

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Posted May 15 2011 - 6:35 AM

The eggs are edible, and I think the legs, for that reason males should be thrown back, as it would be pretty sad to kill an animal for a bunch of small legs.

Hmm, I've heard of them becoming scarce, but as far as I knew the NY population was pretty healthy, I could be wrong though, I see TONS around the breeding season and even during the rest of the year people pull them up every now and then.


Are you puliiing everyone's chain with these comments? Males should be thrown back because they only have the legs to eat, and you should kill the gravid females? You want to sell your extra recreationally caught fish to the market ?

- As it was said, it's unlawful to sell any seafood without a commercial license. You can't just sell your extra fish, of any kind,
- It is unlawful to keep any crabs that are bearing eggs.

Horseshoe crabs are not endangered. There is still a commercial season (500 per day) and recreational limits (5 per day) on them. They are usually caught around this time of year when they are easy to find in the shallows mating and before they are carrying eggs. They are mostly used as bait now, for killie and eel traps.

#18 Steve in Mass

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Posted May 15 2011 - 6:47 AM





From the Cape Cod Times:



Horseshoe crab decline 'alarming'

WELLFLEET — University of Massachusetts graduate student Sarah Martinez is careful about drawing non-scientific conclusions about her horseshoe crab research. But, after four years doing population surveys on these dinosaur-age survivors, Martinez, who hails from Yarmouth, can't help herself.

"We both grew up on Cape Cod," Martinez said of herself and fellow graduate student Katherine Terkanian, who is from Wellfleet. "I remember there being more as a kid."

Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the state Division of Marine Fisheries, said state officials believe the combined evidence of spawning surveys such as those conducted by Martinez and Terkanian, as well as trawling surveys, are showing a decline in the state's horseshoe crab population. When spawning surveys turned up few or no crabs at some known spawning sites, McKiernan said state officials worried that they may be managing crabs the wrong way — that it may be just as important where fishermen harvest horseshoe crabs as how many they catch.

"On known spawning beaches, some of these findings appeared to be alarming," McKiernan said.

Largely ignored by both fishery managers and the public for decades, horseshoe crabs hit the news in 1998, when birders worried that a vital link in the ocean food chain was being severed by fishermen harvesting horseshoe crabs for use as bait. Migrating shorebirds, particularly in the Delaware Bay area, depended on crab eggs for nourishment in their long South American migration.

Conservation efforts

By 2000, both the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham banned the harvest of horseshoe crabs for bait and medical use. Horseshoe crab blood produces a vital medical product that can detect contamination in medical devices such as surgical implants.

The Division of Marine Fisheries also set strict limits on how many of the crabs could be caught. This year, the agency instituted new regulations to guard against localized depletion by protecting spawning crabs that gather in large groups on beaches around the full moon in late April through early July. Fishermen catching crabs for bait and for the medical industry, by taking advantage of these natural aggregations, could, in theory, wipe out a local population.

There has already been some research showing that there may be at least four genetically distinct horseshoe crab populations from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Division of Marine Fisheries co-sponsored some of Martinez and Terkanian's research at the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The pair has used radio tracking of individual crabs and analysis of genetic samples to determine whether there are even more genetically distinct crab populations in smaller water bodies such as Wellfleet Harbor and the Nauset estuary system.

Looking for answers

With $50,000 in federal Sea Grant funding, the graduate students fixed radio transmitters on 75 horseshoe crabs this spring in Chatham waters around Stage Harbor, Monomoy and South Beach. They then placed 22 thermos-sized radio receivers moored in large tubs of cement around the area. Each transmitter emits a distinct signal that is caught by the receivers on the crabs and stored. Researchers then go out and download information from the receivers to a laptop computer to study the crabs' movements.

One goal of the research is to determine whether the crabs in each locality mix, or remain separated, during the two-year lifespan of the batteries powering the transmitters. This kind of research helps the Division of Marine Fisheries determine whether the agency needs to craft regulations to protect groups of crabs that stay in one particular area, or whether crabs from other areas just move in and replace those that fishermen catch.

Terkanian is collecting genetic samples from crabs in Wellfleet, Stage Harbor, Duxbury Bay, the Nauset estuary, and Pleasant Bay to determine whether there is any interbreeding. She is still looking for funding to complete the analysis of genetic samples that could show that discrete groups don't intermingle.


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#19 doughboy

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Posted May 15 2011 - 7:02 AM

They are declining in numbers, but they are not on the endangered, or threatened species lists, yet anyway. As was said in the article, their eggs are important for migrating shore birds.

American eels are also apparently declining and there was some discussion a few years ago about eliminating the use of them for bait because of it.

#20 Tagman

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Posted May 15 2011 - 7:47 AM

I wouldn't even try to harvest them. I believe they are declining in numbers, and are endangered.
How much soup are you gonna make from even 10 crabs? Do they really taste like nothing you
have ever eaten before?? SHEESH!!! :rolleyes:

Get yourself a couple of crab traps, hit your local pier, and catch some legal sized blueclaws,
and leave the effin horseshoes alone!


#21 lichum

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Posted May 15 2011 - 8:52 AM

Just wade in and pick them out of the water. Grab them by the tail, that's the easiest.

When I was a child that's how I caught them.

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#22 IrishStripes

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Posted May 15 2011 - 9:00 AM

they seem to be on every beach on the NS of LI and the GSBay on new and full moon tides, all you could ever ask for. I remeber hearing that their blood was a unique component of the drug testing process.

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#23 SDK

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Posted May 15 2011 - 9:56 AM

Horseshoe Crabs don't just benefit seabirds. Those billions of eggs also feed the marine food chain, which directly benefits larger gamefish. Even if you could care less about conservation, a logical cost/benefit analysis comes down firmly on the side of leaving them be. They live for 20 to 40 years, so that tidbit of meat comes at the cost of decades of annual contribution to feeding all of the small species that Stripers eat.

I've been prowling the beaches around here for close to 40 years. I can say with 100% certainty that Horseshoe Crab numbers are severely depleted from when I was a kid. They certainly don't need any more pressure placed on them in my opinion....

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#24 Tfisher

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Posted May 15 2011 - 9:59 AM

check regs not sure they are legal to take during certain times (mating season

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#25 ExoticSeafood

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Posted May 15 2011 - 11:27 PM

The regulations about not taking gravid crabs don't apply to horseshoes, as they arent really crabs, but an aquatic arachnid.

After finding out its illegal to sell seafood without a license, I've decided not to sell them, however if I happen to catch some I might keep one female to eat.

Horseshoes aren't endangered, yes the population has dropped in recent years but the same can be said of many sea creatures, a lot of it has to do with pollution and humans little by little destroying natural habitats to make way for homes, man made structures, etc

The numbers of many game fish are declining as well, tautog for example, I'm sure most people here would eat a legal size tautog if they caught it, so what's so different about eating one legally caught horseshoe crab?

#26 Crabcakes

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Posted May 16 2011 - 8:44 AM

I don't mean to sound unfriendly but I think your interest in selling them, along with the name "exotic seafood" gave people the wrong impression.

That being said, if you want to find out about horsheshoe crab regulations you already have your answer; contact your state wildlife office/DEP. Asking about regulations for an infrequently targeted species on a fishing forum isn't the best way to get accurate info. Solve your question with a quick call.

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#27 TF3

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Posted May 16 2011 - 9:15 AM

The Horseshoe eggs are a major food source for the Red Knot which migrates from S.A. to Canada every spring/summer. We have a beach here that USED to be a mainstop for the birds during their 13,000 mile (longest known single flight w/o food or water) migration........the crabs are gone and so are the birds.

The best way to catch them is under the cover of dark. You need to be quick and stealthy as they are lightening fast and extremely aggressive!

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#28 lichum

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Posted May 16 2011 - 9:38 AM

they seem to be on every beach on the NS of LI and the GSBay on new and full moon tides, all you could ever ask for. I remeber hearing that their blood was a unique component of the drug testing process.

Their blood is a vivid blue.

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#29 HJS

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Posted May 16 2011 - 9:59 AM

I agree with others. They are still around in high numbers in places but they do seem to be in serious decide. Several years ago they became popular to bait traps for other crabs and as well as eels. Commercial interests started harvesting them during the spawn by filling up pickups using pitchforks. That's when the decline started.

They are rather harmless. A special I saw on TV about the medical use for their blood the collectors gathered them up, drained out some blood, then returned them live back to the water. Even then there was a fair bit of mortality but at least a fair number did survive the ordeal.

To prove how harmless they are one of the collectors pick up a big one, turned it over, and buried his face right in the wiggling mass of legs with no damage to his face at all... really creepy thing to do to prove a point... but prove it he did.

#30 H'Islander

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Posted May 16 2011 - 11:14 AM

I guess to each his own as far as table-fare goes. I know some Mexican folks that work in the Pheonix area love to get roasted grasshoppers from the fields back home when they can get them. They warn you to take off the legs so they don't get stuck in your throat like toothpick shards...LOL....not for me.....

I'm sure you set off a few pings on the local radar screens here too - Other than your SOL name, Exotic Seafood, which can be routine or the moniker for a fish monger (not in any derogatory sense) but, legal or otherwise, you're interest in only a small portion of the animal you intend to kill, and your reference to selling to Asian markets are often considered red flags in a conservation minded forum. I'm not being judgmental, but you have to agree there are sensitivities to be considered.

We all see the abuses of wildlife that Asian markets can create - Tuna, shark fins, marine mammals...you get the idea. Not saying all occidentals are angels either - by-catch from commercial draggers is a horrible thing to witness (unless of course you're following them to hook up the tuna that have learned to exploit the easy bounty...)

Horseshoe crabs are completely harmless to humans, save for the spines on their shell. I see them in fair numbers when diving for lobster and I bump into quite a few when raking for quahogs. One of the eeriest fellings that I had was one investigating my wader boot at night - (skritchy-skritchy-scratch...) YIKES!!....it just catches you off guard for a sensation like that.

My kids love finding the whole molted shells from the small ones. They wash up in the late spring in large numbers for a bout a week or so in June - golf ball sized to baseball sized ones are their favorite size - they have a collection of a dozen or so.

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