The Red Rock Crabs of the Pacific Northwest
Red rock crabs have a fan shaped carapace with knobby edges. They are dark red to bright red on the top and a yellowish white on the underside. Red rock crabs also have 4 pairs of walking legs and 1 pair of claws. Their claws are black tipped, thick and with tooth-like bumps, making them very powerful looking. Indeed those are very powerful claws. Red rock crabs also have very strong and thick shells, even thicker than that of the Dungeness crabs.
The red rock crab, also called red crab or rock crab, is a close relative to the Dungeness crab. You will have a hard time trying to find this specie of crabs in stores or restaurants because red rock crabs are deemed too small for commercial fishery.
Breeding occurs in inshore waters during May to August. The males will carry the females under them while mating to stop other crabs from mating with them, sometimes they will do this for hours at a time. Eggs can be laid from October to June, but usually between December and January. Red rocks are born as plankton. They need 3 to 4 months to reach juvenile stage.
Red rock crabs are carnivores and aren’t picky eaters. They eat barnacles, bivalves, smaller crabs and fish. They are in turn, are food for large fishes, octopuses, marine mammals and the occasional fisherman. Red Rocks can be quite aggressive, it’s a good idea to wear a good pair of leather gloves when handling them.
Red Rock Crabs can be found in rock, gravel or kelp beds, or rocky areas where rocky headlands or outcrops provide some wave protection. These crabs are wonderful to watch as they go about their daily business of being crabs.