When you hear “king crab” you may be envisioning a large plate with succulent crab legs and a side of coleslaw. Did you know you could be eating a 25-year-old crab? King crabs that are used in the seafood industry come mostly from the red king crab which has a lifespan of 20-30 years. To ensure that we do not overharvest these crabs there are three main groups that monitor the red king crab fishery: the NOAA, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
They have established rules about only keeping males of a certain size and limiting fishing to certain seasons (not during mating or molting). Two other kinds of king crab are also harvested, the golden king crab and the blue king crab but both of these are a bit smaller than the red king crab (also known as the Alaskan king crab). Let’s take a look at some of the largest king crabs!
How many species of crabs are there?
There are thousands of species of crabs, with more than 6,700 identified species grouped in 93 groups. Crabs live both on land (but near water) or entirely under water (marine crabs) so there a wide range of habitats. The smallest crab is the pea crab which actually lives inside bivalve mollusks shells, some are parasitic and some just live peacefully along side the mollusks. Pea crabs are only a ½ inch long! On the other side of the spectrum is the Japanese Spider Crab which is the largest crab in the world and lives in the ocean waters around Japan. These giants can have a body that is 16 inches wide, but their most distinct characteristic is their long spider-like legs. The span of their legs can reach 12ft!
So how big are king crabs?
The three main kinds of king crabs that are harvested are the golden king crab, the blue king crab and the red king crab. Golden king crabs are the smallest weighing 5-8lbs, but they are still used for seafood and fished off the coast of the Aleutian Islands. Blue king crabs are a delicacy as well and can grow to be 18lbs. They are found in the Bering Sea and live out in deeper waters. They look similar to red crabs but appear to have a blueish hue. Red king crabs are not actually red until they are cooked, but do appear a reddish-brown. As the largest of the king crabs the males can grow to be 24lbs and have a leg span of up to 5 feet!
The largest king crab on record
The largest king crab on record weighed 24 lbs!
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the record for the largest male red king crab is 24lbs with the largest female being 10.5lbs. There are other sources that claim a 28lb king crab as holding the record which is entirely possible considering there have been multiple crabs that hit the 24lb mark. But can you imagine a crab weighing between 24-28lbs is about the same weight as a two-year old toddler!
Largest king crab leg
Crab legs are what chefs all over the world are after and they are willing to pay a price for the best and largest. Some restaurants will advertise 1 pound crab legs (think about how that compares to a quarter pounder burger) but the largest crab legs, sporting the name of “Super Colossal King Crab Legs” are 1.5 pounds…each! When ordering king crab legs they use a system of counting how many legs it takes to make 10lbs. For example, the larger legs may take 6-9 legs to make a 10lb order with each leg weighing a little less than a pound each.
Largest king crab for sale
If you are looking at trying out your own crab leg recipe you can buy frozen king crabs. Some of the largest king crabs you can buy weigh 5lbs. If you just want the legs, fully cooked and ready to reheat you can buy those as well, but for a price. If you were having a BBQ for a large crowd and ordered 12lbs of hamburger it would run around $60. Having a crab feast? How much do you think 12lbs of fully cooked Alaskan king crab legs costs today? $1,025!!
Crabs that are larger than king crabs
Although king crabs are obviously impressive in size there are four other crab species that are larger than the king crab (as measured by carapace width):
- Giant Mud Crabs: These large crabs bury themselves in the mud and can be found in the Indo-Pacific among the mangroves. Their bodies can get to be as big as 11 inches across and they have very large claws compared to other crabs.
- Coconut Crabs: The coconut crab (also called the robber crab) holds a Guinness World Record as the “Heaviest crustacean on land” and the “Largest crustacean on land”. They live entirely on land with the exception of the females laying eggs in the water. Their average weight is around 5 ½ pounds but some have been measured at 9lbs. and their leg span can exceed 3 feet!
- Tasmanian Giant Crab: With an intimidating name like that they do not disappoint! These crabs live deep in the Southern Australian Ocean and can get to be 39lbs! The average weight of the males is closer to 30lbs with the females only averaging 15lbs. Their red and yellow shell can grow to be a foot-and-a-half wide! These crabs have two large front claws with one being clearly larger than the other.
- Japanese Spider Crab: As mentioned above, the Japanese Spider Crab is the largest of the crab species. The only location to find these crabs are in the waters around Japan. To hide from predators these crabs will sometimes decorate their shell with other things like sponges and kelp! Their giant 16 inch wide bodies have 8 legs and 2 arms, with each arm being 5ft long! The span between the legs can be as much as 12 feet, tip to tip! You would need a very long plate to have one of those legs for dinner.