How Blue Crabs are Sized:

The difference between the sizes and how they are measured

Blue crabs are highly sought after. Even though these crabs can be found up and down the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico, the most prized are found in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

But…I know what you’re thinking… ‘That’s all well-and-good, Patterson. But what does the Chesapeake Bay, Gulf of Mexico, or watershed have to do with this “Jimmy”? Better yet, what, or who, is “Sook”?’  I know, I know. The Chesapeake Bay crabbing community has some unique names associated with their crabs. And, no, these names are not some reference to ‘people’ or ‘places’. These are terms associated with the crab sizes.


How Crabs Grow

As a crab matures, they’ll frequently shed their smaller shells (outer coverings) to make room for their larger, growing bodies. This molting occurs during the warmer months, which often coincides with the peak season. This is when crabs tend to be at their largest and just right for harvesting.


How Crabs are Measured for Harvest

Blue crabs are not measured by weight, they are measured by size. Blue crabs have a unique looking top shell, their carapace. The carapace is wide at the center, coming to two sharp points at the sides. It is at these points (also referred to as ‘tips’) that blue crabs are sized to determine whether they meet the requirements for harvest and as to what sizing category they’ll be grouped.

All male crabs harvested from the Chesapeake Bay must be, at the very minimum, 5-inches from point to point. Female crabs have a few extra rules attached (I’ll get to that in a little bit) but, typically, female crabs are harvested at 4 1/2-inches from point to point.

Crabbers use a gauge to measure crabs right out of the crab pot, right there on the boat. This gauge, almost like a notched ruler, is marked for easy assessing. Smaller crabs are released (to grow bigger and make more crabs) and harvested crabs are sorted by size.


Jimmies, Sooks and Sallys

Here’s where we get into all the fun names and terms. But, trust me, after this brief intro, you’ll be sizing crabs like a champ.


#1 Males or Jimmies

These are the terms used to define large blue crabs. These crabs range from 5 1/2-6 1/4 inches  from point to point.


Jumbo Jimmies

These are the extra large (XL) male crabs, coming in at 6 1/4+ inches from point to point. Big boys.


#2 Males

These are the standard sized male crabs. These crabs range from 5-5 1/2 inches from point to point.



All crabs can be identified by the pattern on their underside shell. Male crabs have a pointed pattern (we call it the Washington Monument-looks a lot like it), females have a triangular pattern (crabbers call it the ‘apron’). Sallys are immature female crabs. Their aprons are much more triangular and lighter in color. Sallys must be 5-inches from point to point in order to be harvested.



Sooks are mature female crabs. Their apron is much more rounded and darker in color than the immature Sallys. Sooks do not have a registered size but most crabbers harvest Sooks at 4 1/2 inches.


Large Female

These crabs can be either Sooks or Sallys. But, in order to be called ‘large’ they must be over 5 1/2 inches from point to point.


Standard Female

Like the #2 Males, these are female crabs that range from 4 1/2-5 1/2  inches from point to point. These also can be a mixture of Sooks or Sallys.


Sponge Crab

These female crabs are prohibited from harvesting. They’re called ‘sponge crabs’ because of the soft, spongy egg sack attached to their aprons. Crabbers (novice to professional) know to gently return these ladies back to the water as they are in the process of making more crabs. The true queens of the Bay.


Pick a Crab, Any Crab

Here at Cameron’s Seafood, we like to give the people the blue crabs they crave. Whether that’s Sooks, Sallys, or Jimmies, we have you covered. Head on over to our online shop to check out our blue crabby catalog. We offer some of the finest crabs harvest from the Bay, all True Blue certified, caught, steamed and shipped the same day!

About the author

Patterson Watkins is a professional chef with over 17 years of experience. With a robust career in restaurants, contract dining and catering (including 4 Summer Olympic posts preparing food for the athletes!) Patterson joined the Cameron’s Seafood team at the end of 2018 to concoct some delicious recipes with our premium seafood items as the centerpiece.

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