Fish Market fluctuations: Avoid the pinch when buying crabs

WASHINGTON — Market prices for blue crabs can fluctuate with the calendar and as trucks bring them to the D.C. Fish Market in Southwest. But generally speaking, you’ll pay between $105 and $225 a bushel.

At Jessie Taylor’s Seafood mid-day on Friday, a bushel of mediums was going for $105, large males were priced at $175, and a bushel of extra-large crabs cost $225.

Deciding which size to buy depends on how much work you want to do

“Put [the different bushels] on a scale and they’re weighing out the same. It’s just less picking on the bigger crabs,” said Clarence Goodman of Jessie Taylor’s Seafood. About five dozen crabs are in a bushel of extra-large crabs. A bushel of large males, Goodman said, is about six or seven dozen.

Business was slower than expected for the Fourth of July, according to a Fish Market vendor. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Business was slower than expected for the Fourth of July, according to a Fish Market vendor. (WTOP/Kristi King)

To supplement the number of crabs stocked from the Chesapeake Bay, Jessie Taylor's Seafood is getting them from the Carolinas and a far away as Louisiana and Florida. (WTOP/Kristi King)
To supplement the number of crabs stocked from the Chesapeake Bay, Jessie Taylor’s Seafood is getting them from the Carolinas and a far away as Louisiana and Florida. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Working the seafood steamers in already-hot weather, B.J. Rogers of Chesapeake Va. said, "You just work hard and keep at it." (WTOP/Kristi King)
Working the seafood steamers in already-hot weather, B.J. Rogers of Chesapeake Va. said, “You just work hard and keep at it.” (WTOP/Kristi King)

Crab prices can fluctuate as shipments arrive. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Crab prices can fluctuate as shipments arrive. (WTOP/Kristi King)

A wily crab got the best of a driver who was hauling it and bushels of others in a front-end loader. (WTOP/Kristi King)
A wily crab got the best of a driver who was hauling it and bushels of others in a front-end loader. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Construction at The Wharf has eliminated parking spaces immediately in front of the Fish Market, but you can still get an affordable spot with validation. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Construction at The Wharf has eliminated parking spaces immediately in front of the Fish Market, but you can still get an affordable spot with validation. (WTOP/Kristi King)

The orange stuff inside this female crab are eggs that some people find a delicacy. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The orange stuff inside this female crab are eggs that some people find a delicacy. (WTOP/Kristi King)

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Business was slower than expected for the Fourth of July, according to a Fish Market vendor. (WTOP/Kristi King)
To supplement the number of crabs stocked from the Chesapeake Bay, Jessie Taylor's Seafood is getting them from the Carolinas and a far away as Louisiana and Florida. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Working the seafood steamers in already-hot weather, B.J. Rogers of Chesapeake Va. said, "You just work hard and keep at it." (WTOP/Kristi King)
Crab prices can fluctuate as shipments arrive. (WTOP/Kristi King)
A wily crab got the best of a driver who was hauling it and bushels of others in a front-end loader. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Construction at The Wharf has eliminated parking spaces immediately in front of the Fish Market, but you can still get an affordable spot with validation. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The orange stuff inside this female crab are eggs that some people find a delicacy. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Why you want crabs with dark, dirty-looking bellies

“The darker the shell, the better — the more meat. They’ve been out there a long time,” Goodman advised.

Crabs that are very white on the bottom have molted recently, and the meat inside has yet to grow to begin to fill the shell. “It’s soft [-shell] crab season right now. They’re the ones that didn’t get caught in time,” Goodman said.

What’s different this season

People familiar with the Southwest waterfront Fish Market wouldn’t recognize it from the vantage point of Maine Avenue. Construction — part of The Wharf development — blocks the view from the street, and there’s no more parking in the immediate vicinity of the floating barges that hold the various seafood vendors.

Parking now is available in The Wharf garages for $2 the first hour with a Fish Market receipt.

It takes 25 minutes to steam a bushel of crabs. A half-bushel takes 18 minutes.

But potential customers, Goodman said, shouldn’t be discouraged by long lines for the steamers.

“Because a lot of people that are in front of you are either getting snow crab or shrimp and that only takes five minutes,” Goodman said. “And they have 10 pots going at one time.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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