Atlantic Sand Crab: Can You Eat & How to Catch

Millions of people play at the beach every year on six out of seven continents on the planet. Still, very few people know that Atlantic sand crabs are not only completely edible; they are quite good. This crustacean takes on any flavor that they are seasoned with to adapt to any dish. You can also use sand crabs to create soup stock, or you can simply gather them and use them as bait to hunt larger fish.

What is an Atlantic Sand Crab

Sand crabs or sand fleas are officially known as Emerita. These tiny crabs are crustaceans that use their antenna to filter feed. Despite their size, they look very strong exoskeleton and are quite used to dealing with tidal waves and strong ocean currents. They eat plankton and detritus. Anyone has been to the beach at least once has seen these little crabs moving around just barely below the sand’s surface. When people look at the underwater sand and see bubbles, that is the sand crab burrowing deeper.

Many fish like to use this animal as bait for larger red drum or kingfish. 

At most, the sand can will grow to be about an inch long if it is a female. However, males only grow to be half an inch long. But the males have a hard exoskeleton while the females have a soft-shell.

Can You Eat an Atlantic Sand Crab?

When people think of eating crab, they think of large dinner-plate-sized crabs that have beautiful red coloring with a white underbelly. And for many people around the world, this is the only type of crab they have eaten their entire life. Most people do not think of the tiny sand crabs that live in the beach. You know the small little crabs that continuously bury themselves in the sand whenever it disturbed.

But, if they are prepared correctly and are caught from a clean beach and is not known for sewer water running through it, sand crabs are actually edible.

In some places, sand crabs are also called mole crabs. This different name does not do them any favors when trying to convince other people of their edibility.

Do You Need a Permit to Catch Sand Crabs?

Because they are not a crustacean that is eaten by the average consumer and they’re not gathered by fishing but by raking and digging, there seems to be little to no regulations when it comes to gathering sand crabs for consumption. However, if you plan to use the sand crab as bait, you must have a permit to fish.

How to Catch Sand Crabs

The first step in eating the sand crabs or mole crabs is to find large females. Fishers online say that it is not worth eating any sized sand crab because a small sand crab means there is a limited amount of meat.

If you plan on looking for them by hand in beaches that allow sand crab hunting, there are certain tools you can purchase to make hunting them easier. The first tool is a rake. Raking the sand pulls up any sand crabs that are just below the surface. Another way to gather sand crabs is by a net. Catching them by the net is far more effective.

Now, head into the ocean and look for areas where there are a lot of bubbles coming from the sand, and the sand is very soft. When you reach this area, use your feet to kick the sand up and around while moving your net around in the water. You should be able to catch at least five sand crabs every time you do this maneuver.

After you gather many sand crabs, you must sort through the crabs and throw any hard-shell male crabs. Only keep the soft shell female crabs.

How to Prepare an Atlantic Sand Crab 

Unlike other certain Aquatic life, you should never eat raw sand crab. They live on the beach and are in contact with other animals and bacteria, so they could have parasites living within them. Cooking them both kill the parasites and improve their flavor.

After finding many soft-shell female crabs, the first thing you should do is rinse them off thoroughly. Shake them together like you are tossing about a pot of beans so that any rocks or send cut within their exoskeleton is shaken loose.

If you are planning on deep-frying them or frying them in a pan, wait until they are dry. Never drop anything wet into the hot oil.

Take the extra step and break off their tails and squeeze their bodies, so their intestines come out. There are videos on how to do this online. Then you must rinse them again to remove any innards left.

The best way to make anything delicious is to batter and deep-fry it so you can better prepare your favorite and toss the Atlantic crabs in the flour before dipping them in hot oil.

How to Cook an Atlantic Sand Crab

The easiest way to cook an Atlantic sea crab is to simply drop it in a pot and boil them, or they can be deep-fried.

If you want a healthy recipe, you can boil them in a pot of salted water for 20 minutes and then mash them all together like mashed potatoes. This isn’t exactly a dish itself. It is a way to prepare soup stock.

These crabs take on any flavor that they are seasoned with, so you can easily change their taste to whatever you like.


Atlantic sand crab is also known as sand fleas or mole crabs. Their name may not make them sound very appetizing, but they are actually edible and can be used in many different dishes. You should only eat the females because they are both larger and have softer skeletons.

To prepare them, remove their tails and squeeze out their intestines. Then rinse them thoroughly until no more sand or debris is coming out of their skeletons. Sand crabs can be boiled, fried, and hot oil, pan-fried in the batter.

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