St. Lawrence species

Snow crab

Chionoecetes opilio

Type of resource

  • Seafood
  • Seafood - crustaceans

Status of the resource

  • Not a cause for concern

In season

Fresh from April to June.

SIZE : 15 cm wide, 90 cm span.

LIFE EXPECTANCY : From 12 to 13 years.

LIFE CYCLE : Sexual maturity at around 5 cm wide for the female and 9.5 cm for the male.
Reproduction takes place in winter and spring, after the female has molted.
Females choose their partners. Males will fight for their favors and protect them from predators.
Females produce between 16,000 and 160,000 eggs, which they protect under their bellies. These hatch up to two years later, between the months of April and June. The larvae drift in the water column for 2 to 8 months. Once their shell reaches 3 mm, they settle to the bottom and begin their series of molts in order to grow, until the final, terminal molt.

An ever-growing armor

The crab’s outer shell is inextensible. It therefore needs to molt in order to grow. The crab forms a new shell under its old one. When it is ready, the crab gradually sheds its “old armor”. The new carapace is soft and will take some time to harden. The crab is therefore very vulnerable after molting.

With its relatively small body and long thin legs, the snow crab looks like a spider. Its shell is round and flat, with serrations on the sides. It is normally red to olive-green in color. The 5 pairs of legs are long and thin, with spikes. The first pair has strong claws.

On the bottom, usually between 50 m and 350 m deep, but can reach depths of up to 2,000 m.


Sea stars
Organic mat-ters

Crabs help to clean the oceans. They eat animal cadavers and dead plants.





  • Specified fishing season
  • Minimum size of 9.5 cm, excluding females
  • Number of traps per boat
  • Regulations on traps
  • Quotas
  • Ban on catching crabs having just molted
  • Fishing zones closed according to observations of North Atlantic right whales.

Snow crab fishing in Quebec began as an incidental event in 1960. It began to be a directed activity and to grow in importance in the 1980s. Today, the snow crab is one of Quebec’s flagship species.

A courageous type of fishing for a tasty feast

Snow crab fishing takes place in April, when the weather is just getting milder and the ices of the St. Lawrence are beginning to thaw. These sailing (and working) conditions put the fishermen to the test. Nevertheless, they never fail to deliver to the Quebecois the species that heralds the arrival of spring and crab parties.

Snow crab is an excellent source of Omega-3 and protein, as well as vitamin B12 and zinc. Its meat is lean.

Tender, melting, and stringy texture. White meat with a delicate, slightly sweet taste. Snow crab can be used in a multitude of dishes: guédilles (snow crab rolls), crab cakes, salads, quiches, spring rolls, chowders, etc.


  • Ideally, you should buy crab while it is still alive. If the legs dangle when you pick it up, it is best to choose another crab.
  • If you buy it cooked, its shell should be red and slightly moist.
  • To determine the quantity, allow one or two crabs per person, depending on the size of the crab and the person’s appetite.
  • Cook the whole snow crab for 15 minutes in boiling salted water, then plunge quickly into cold water or ice to stop the cooking process.

Arm yourself with pliers or a good pair of scissors to break off the leg sections and access the prized meat.

Plan for a small salad, bread, flavored butter sauces, white wine or non-alcoholic beverages. Mostly, do not forget the napkins, and even a few bibs as you will likely make a mess of it.

Accompanied by great music, we guarantee you will have a great crab party.