Using Blue Crabs for Bait

How to determine if a shedder crab is suitable for bait.

Used whole or in pieces, shedder crabs make killer bait for drum, ­flounder, trout and stripers. Shedders are blue crabs about to shed their shells. In this pre-molt period, the old shell peels off, revealing the juice-laden “new” crab within. Hence their other moniker: “peelers.” You can buy them, but savvy anglers catch their own. Look for these key signs to determine if a crab is ready to shed and suitable for bait.

1. Squeeze Play
Squeeze the swim fins, or "paddles." If the crab is a shedder, you'll see and feel the old and new shells sliding in and out of each other.

2. The Color Purple
Female shedders are easy to identify. Turn them over and look for a triangular, purplish-red apron, aka "belly flap."

3. Piggybacks
If you catch one crab on top of another, the bottom crab is almost always a shedder, being protected by the crab above.

4. Break Time
Snap off the tip of a claw, and if a new claw is revealed it's a shedder; if you see white sinew, the crab isn't ready to shed.