Fisherman finds Maryland Blue Crab in Crystal River

By Kim Leoffler, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, December 28, 2017, 6:26 PM EST

A fisherman in Crystal River made quite the catch this week. Turns out one of his blue crabs had traveled to our area all the way from Maryland! Experts say that's very unusual.

  • Crab had been tagged by scientists
  • Crab traveled from Chesapeake Bay to gulf over several years
  • Fisherman working with scientists to return crab

It’s certainly not something Thomas Cochran with TJE Seafood expected to find while taking in his normal harvest from King's Bay.

"I was looking around like, is this a joke or is this something that's all over or is this one of a kind?” he explained.

He noticed the pink tag on the crab and called the number listed. Turns out the crab had been tagged by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the Chesapeake Bay, and over the course of several years made his way into the gulf and then into King's Bay.

A scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center told us this is the furthest a blue crab has traveled since they started tagging them.

"We've tagged a number of crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. Some of them get captured as far south as North Carolina," Robert Aguilar, a biologist at the center, said.

Agular said it was also an unusual catch because it was a male crab.

"Unlike the females, they don't have a directed migration, and also males in theory should continue to molt, to continue to grow, so when they molt they shed their exoskeleton and in theory they will then shed any tag that is attached to the carapace."

Now the center is working with Cochran to get the crab sent back to them so they can do some tests to see why he traveled as far as his did.

It's something Cochran said has been a once in a lifetime experience.

"I talked to some colleagues in Crystal River yesterday evening showed them the crab and they were just as speechless as I was. They're long time crabbers too," Cochran explained.

Aguilar said they've tagged about 50,000 crabs over the last 15 years.