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Researching NJ's Recreational Blue Crab Fishery


Blue crab From 2005 through 2007, the NJ Division of Science, Research and Technology and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife funded a NJ Marine Fisheries Administration proposal to study and estimate the monthly fishing effort and harvest by the different gear types in the recreational blue crab fishery within New Jersey. The survey design was similar to that of the Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey consisting of telephone and intercept (field) interviews of crabbers.

The study was conducted in three stages, starting in the Delaware Bay area in 2005 which covered Salem, Cumberland and Cape May counties. The survey continued in 2006 focusing on the southern coastal bays up to and including Great Bay in the counties of Cape May, Atlantic, Burlington and Ocean. Northern coastal bays from Little Egg Harbor through Sandy Hook and Raritan Bays were surveyed in 2007 with sampling conducted in Ocean, Burlington, Monmouth and Middlesex counties.

For the entire survey, there were nearly 1,700 dockside intercept interviews conducted from May through October at over 100 locations. Information on the number, size and sex of crabs harvested was recorded. In conjunction with the field interviews, nearly 7,000 phone interviews were completed. The information gleaned from this study is presented below.

Participation Information:

  • NJ residents accounted for 77% of all crabbing participation
        Followed by PA, NY, and DE
        Participants from 19 different states
  • Family activity - 88% of the households surveyed crabbed together
  • On average, during any given month of peak crabbing (May - October), 169,000 people recreationally crab
        Peak activity in July/August with 385,000 people recreational crabbing
Effort Information:
  • 1.24 million recreational crabbing trips are taken within a given year
        Equivalent to 18% of all other recreational fishing trips combined
  • 47% of all trips by boat, 53% from shore, bridge, pier, etc.
Catch and Harvest Information:
  • Based on both commercial and recreational data from 2005 through 2007, an average of over 19.2 million crabs are caught in any giver year
        Equal to the total catch for summer flounder, striped bass, bluefish, black sea bass and scup combined!
  • The recreational harvest averaged over 6 million crabs per year
        The recreational harvest was equivalent to 41% of the NJ commercial blue crab harvest during this study's time period
  • The average catch per trip was 15.5 crabs
  • Crabbing by boat was only slightly more successful than crabbing from shore
Biological Information:
  • The average size of a harvested crab was 5.2 inches (currently a 4.5 inch minimum size for hard crabs)
  • 82% of all crabs harvested were males
  • 73% of the females that were harvested were mature females
In 2005, the NJ Marine Fisheries Administration also started a voluntary survey of the recreational blue crab pot fishery. This survey is similar to the Striped Bass Volunteer Angler survey and is used to help gain information on the number of trips taken, fishing location, number of crabs caught and kept and other miscellaneous information. Recreational crabbers who obtain a non-commercial crab pot license are asked to fill out the log after each trip with the appropriate information and then send in the forms at the end of the season to the Nacote Creek Research Station.
Blue Claw Report Form (pdf, 50kb)

This program is ongoing and continues to collect more information on this increasingly popular activity. The Division is grateful to those who take the time to fill out and send in the forms and for the valuable information provided.

Blue Claws: Crabbing in New Jersey

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: June 28, 2018