Catching crabs in the Weekapaug Breachway is the ultimate experience in touching, feeling, and coexisting with ancient sea life. But before you begin your excursion it is wise to know not only which crabs are edible or not, but also which are illegal to harvest.
The Weekapaug Breachway is teaming with several varieties of crabs, the most common of which is the green crab. This creature has either a green or dark brown shell. It’s legs are thin and it is readily apparent this crab contains little or no meat. The green crab is essentially a scavenger that will latch onto anything dead on the ocean floor. It is also a menace to the soft-shelled clam population. Higher up on the food chain are rock crabs whose light, cream-colored shell stands in stark contrast to its green crab brothers and sisters. Rock crabs are seen as a delicacy and are harvested in Rhode Island not only recreationally, but commercially as well. Blue crabs are even more desirable. Years ago, blue crabs were an endangered species and off limits to crabbers either commercial or recreational. But their numbers have sufficiently returned and while they are most associated with Chesapeake Bay, they are common in the waters from Weekapaug to Narragansett Bay. Out-of-staters are to be forewarned – harvesting of blue crabs is by residents only. Making blue crabs unique is that they may be cooked and eaten whole, shell and all. There is also a strict size limit of five inches and a harvest limit of 25. It is also noteworthy that blue crabs cannot be harvested between sunset and sunrise.
Finally, there is the horseshoe crab, a creature noteworthy on many fronts. First, it’s scary-looking! If you can imagine a German soldier’s helmet walking across the ocean floor, you have a pretty good picture of what a horseshoe crab looks like. One added feature is that the horseshoe crab has an 8-inch, hard, spiked tail. The horseshoe crab normally buries itself in the mud. Pity the person who comes walking by. The horseshoe crab shoots its tail upward as a defense mechanism, and to step on it would surely mean a trip to the hospital! A further unique quality of the horseshoe crab is evidenced by a quote from the regulations of the Rhode Island Department of Fisheries and Wildlife – “No person shall harvest horseshoe crabs from waters or shoreline of the state during the 48-hour period preceding and the 48-hour period following the new and full moons during the months of May, June and July annually.
Crabbing in the Weekapaug Breach is different things to different people. To a child it’s a bucket full of green crabs to be enjoyed and tossed back into the ocean at the end of the day. To the seafood lover, there is the satisfaction of the catch-your-own dinner consisting of rock and blue crabs. And to the lover of nature, there is the majesty and mystery of the ancient horseshoe crab.