Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Journal of Shellfish Research





First Page


Last Page



The population structure of the blue crab Callinectes sapidus was examined in the Maryland Coastal Bays (MCB) from 2014 to 2016. Crabs were sampled from April to December of each year. Size–frequency distributions showed a strong seasonal cycle, with small crabs being abundant in April, increasing in size through September, with adult crabs observed in the highest proportions from August through October of each year. A subsample of crabs was assayed for hemolymph ecdysone concentrations to examine molting patterns in field-collected blue crabs. Molting was observed throughout the sampling season, peaking in April for immature crabs, with lows in all size classes occurring in October. The mean size at maturity (L50) for females collected in this study was 116mmcarapace width (CW), which is comparable to that reported for the lower Chesapeake Bay (CB) and suggests crabs in the MCB are not significantly smaller as previously thought; however, large crabs (>127 mmCW) appear to make up a smaller proportion of the total population in the MCB than in CB. Ovigerous females were observed at two distinct locations depending on the season, with 13/15 (86.7%) in southern Chincoteague Bay in April and May and 24/41 (58.5%) nearest to the Ocean City Inlet in July and August, indicating two potentially distinct spawning grounds and periods. This work suggests that blue crab reproductive success and general population trends are similar across both systems, with fishing pressure or disease in the MCB potentially explaining the low abundance of adult male crabs.


doi: 10.2983/035.039.0316


population structure, Callinectes sapidus, crustacean ecology, molting, size–frequency distribution