In April of 2016, Nicholls State University began a project to study the spawning and migration habits of the female crab in the Gulf of Mexico. The crab-tagging project is currently being run by the Gulf Coast Research Lab at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Researchers hope to tag 30,000 female crabs between the Texas/Mexico border to Apalachicola, Florida. As of January 2018, more than 13,000 have been tagged and released inshore and offshore along the five gulf-rim states.

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They are relying on recreational and commercial fishermen alike to be on the lookout for crabs with the 1" x 2" orange tags affixed to their backs, and they will pay from $5 to $50 for each tag you report. If you happen to catch a tagged crab, you will find all the contact information you need on the tag, including the amount of the reward!

The research lab's website details what you need to know and what they need to know about the crab you catch.

Please record the tag number, the date you caught it, the location where it was caught (GPS if possible, or a descriptive location with the nearest landmark), and whether or not the crab was carrying eggs (also called a sponge). If it is carrying eggs, please record whether the eggs were orange, brown, or black. This information tells us the developmental stage of the eggs.

After you've reported it, you can do one of three things:

  1. Remove the tag and keep the crab.
  2. Release the crab back where you caught it.
  3. Freeze the crab and call the research lab. They will make arrangements to have it picked up or shipped to them.

Prime crab season in south Louisiana is May through October, but folks are already throwing their lines in the water. Remember, you'll need a basic recreational fishing license if you want to go crabbing in one of the LDWF Wildlife Management areas.

For all the state regulations on crabbing, visit the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website.