Kimberly’s Crabs in Charleston, South Carolina and a Recipe for Crab Cakes with a Spicy Mustard Sauce

Got crabs? I hope not, however I can tell you who does…Kimberly of Kimberly’s Crabs in Charleston, South Carolina!  She’s got all sorts of crabs as we discovered when we went crabbing with she and her husband Bobby a few weeks ago.

Kimberly is getting the bait ready for the day.

One of my favorite dishes to order when we go out for dinner is crab cakes and Mr. B’s favorite is soft-shell crabs.  Rather than go out for dinner, we decided to prepare these dishes at home.  Since we are always in search of the best and freshest ingredients to use in our dishes, we traveled directly to the source  – a crabber in Charleston, South Carolina!

The day begins early on the water.

Kimberly is one of the very few female crabbers in South Carolina (there are three that we know of out of 360 commercial crabbers) and she has a very interesting life story.  Kimberly’s Crabs also is the name that we heard over and over again from chefs in Charleston when we asked about local crabbers, so we were so excited that she agreed to take us crabbing.  We later learned that Kimberly has never allowed a guest on her boat until we went with them.

Bobby has crabs, too!

If you read Bunkycooks, you probably know that we are interested in finding out about the people and places behind our food and do all sorts of exciting things when we go On the Road. This boat ride was certainly one of those experiences.

The pelicans are looking for hand outs!

Who else gets up at 4 am (out of a really comfortable bed in a lovely hotel) to go crabbing in the freezing cold?  Well, we did.  Kimberly and Bobby get up at this hour nearly every morning of their lives for their business.

This is how Kimberly stays awake. I wish I had one that morning!

As Kimberly watched the weather for the few days prior to our crabbing adventure, she told us to “dress warm and sleep fast” (I’m still trying to sleep fast, but am not sure that I have mastered that concept quite yet!).  I was also advised that if anything happened to me while crabbing that I might become crab bait.  So, tell me again why I am getting on this boat in the freezing cold??  If you don’t hear from me at some point in the future, maybe you should check with Kimberly… 😉

Kimberly has been crabbing for a total of eight years.  Prior to crabbing, she and her former husband (who tragically passed away from pancreatic cancer several years ago) owned a fishing and retail business.  She had this business for a total of eighteen years.

We found some beautiful crabs the day we went crabbing.

When her husband passed away, she was in danger of losing the business, so she contacted an old friend (now known as Captain Bobby)  and asked him to come from Virginia to help her. Bobby has been a crabber for about thirty years. The business, now known as Kimberly’s Crabs, is strictly a crabbing business and it is thriving.  She sells to high end restaurants and chefs, special venues and some local seafood markets.

One of these containers is equal to a bushel.

Much of the success can be attributed to this fireball who has an infectious smile, cracks jokes and laughs heartily.  Kimberly is incredibly knowledgeable about the the waters in South Carolina, the environment where she goes crabbing and about the varieties of crabs that exist in those waters.

Lots of Blue Crabs!

Kimberly was not always working on a boat.  In fact, at one point she had a career in Interventional Radiology at Roper Hospital in Charleston.  She decided after several years of working in radiology that she was ready to work for herself and do something completely different.  She wanted to be outdoors and on the water, which she loves.

We found some Conch that day.

The recent trend toward using fresh and local catches right off the boat has definitely had a positive impact on her business.  There has been a renaissance in using local ingredients.  More people are interested in purchasing and eating Lowcountry local foods as opposed to imported foods, especially seafood.

Crabbing is a year round business, except for one month in the winter when it is incredibly cold.  It will also slow down in the summer, which is when Kimberly and Bobby like to take a quick break or vacation.

Can I interest you in some Conch Fritters or Chowder?

Kimberly and Bobby have 190 Blue Crab pots which they will visit almost daily most times of the year.  They also have special pots for Soft-Shell crabbing. They harvest Blue Crabs, Soft-Shell Crabs, Stone Crab Claws and some Conch.  We also picked up a few Horseshoe Crabs, Spider Crabs and some really strange looking unmentionable ocean creatures along the way which were promptly tossed back into the deep dark waters.  Ewww…

Bobby with a Horseshoe Crab

Did you know that Stone Crabs (“Stonies” as Kimberly calls them) are harvested just for their claws (which have to measure at least 2 3/4 inches before you can take them by law)?  One of the claws (which meets those standards) is snapped off in a proper manner so that when they are thrown back into the harbor that claw will grow back again within a year.  Who knew?

The Stone Crab Claw has to be a certain length before you remove it.

Soft -Shell Crabs (another crab that is very popular this time of year) are the result of a crab that has recently molted.  If they happen to catch a crab that appears to be in the early stages of molting, Kimberly will keep it and it will go into a tank at their home until it actually sheds its hard shell.  If it is a small “Peeler Crab”, then it goes back into the ocean until it is perhaps picked up next year.

Unloading the Day's Catch back at the docks.

Kimberly kept pulling up “Jimmies” in some of the pots.  Jimmies are male crabs.  During Soft-Shell Crab season (which is now), they will do something called Jimmy Potting where they take the large male crabs and use them as bait instead of fish.  These two or three large Jimmies are placed in the upstairs section of the crab pot.

Bobby and Kimberly with their crabs!

The female crabs who did not get their chance to mate in the Fall apparently build up a strong mating urge over the Winter and are attracted by the encaged males.  The females willingly enter these pots since the Jimmies are emitting sexually attracting pheromones.  There can be as many as thirty female Peelers that will enter the pot from just having two or three Jimmies as bait.  Of course, I would tell these girls those odds aren’t so hot, but who knows…

Kimberly is very particular about keeping her boat clean.

Soft-Shell Crab season is now in full swing, so we headed back to Charleston after our day of crabbing to order some of Kimberly’s Crabs at one of the local restaurants!

I've got crabs, too!

Thank you so much to Kimberly and Bobby for taking us on their boat and for showing us what they do as crabbers on a daily basis.  We really appreciate that they shared a special piece of their life with us.

Unfortunately, when we left Charleston, I could not take any of Kimberly’s Crabs with us because we were traveling.  I did come home and make some incredible Crab Cakes that were inspired by a recipe from Paula Deen, but I altered it quite a bit and created a Spicy Mustard Sauce to serve with the Crab Cakes.  I prefer Crab Cakes where you can really taste the crab meat with just a little bit of seasoning.

Refrigerate the Crab Cakes before frying them as they will hold together better.

The Spicy Mustard Sauce was the perfect accompaniment. The Lusty Monk Mustard (Original Sin) is one wicked good mustard! It is made by some folks in Asheville, North Carolina. If you can find it, I suggest you use this particular mustard. If you cannot find it, use a spicy whole-grain mustard.

Keep the oil hot so they get nicely browned.

We had the leftovers for breakfast on Tuesday before we went On the Road again!  Wait until you see where we went this time!

I'm going to go see Kimberly to get some crab to make more of these!

Enjoy your weekend!

Crab Cakes with Spicy Mustard Sauce

Yield: 6 Crab Cakes

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes


For Crab Cakes:
1 pound crabmeat, picked free of shells
1/3 cup crushed crackers (I used Saltines)
3 green onions (green and white parts), finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise (I used Hellman's Olive Oil Mayonnaise)
1 egg
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash cayenne pepper
A couple of dashes of hot sauce
Flour, for dusting
1/2 cup peanut oil
Spicy Mustard Sauce, for dipping

For Spicy Mustard Sauce:
1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise (Hellman's Olive Oil Mayonnaise)
1 tablespoon (or more to taste) Lusty Monk Spicy Mustard (or any other spicy, whole-grain mustard)
1/2 lemon, juiced
A few dashes of hot sauce


For Crab Cakes:
In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients, except for the flour and peanut oil. Shape into patties and dust with flour. Refrigerate for several hours before frying.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, carefully place crab cakes, in batches, in pan and fry until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully flip crab cakes and fry on other side until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Serve warm with preferred sauce.

For Spicy Mustard Sauce:
Combine all ingredients together in a small bowl with a whisk, until blended thoroughly. Serve with Crab Cakes.

8 Responses to “Kimberly’s Crabs in Charleston, South Carolina and a Recipe for Crab Cakes with a Spicy Mustard Sauce”

  1. 1

    Medifast Coupons — April 8, 2011 @ 11:53 am

    What an awesome experience, love the videos, those were really good. What a living she has, good for her.
    Love this crab cake recipe, sounds really good and I can’t wait to try with your mustard recipe too.
    Thanks for sharing, see you again real soon.

  2. 2

    Priscilla - She's Cookin' — April 8, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

    What an adventure! Ouch, I knew that the claws of stone crabs are snapped off, but at least they are thrown back to grow more so we can have more delicious crab cakes! What kind of crab meat did you use for your crab cakes? On the west coast, Dungeness is very popular – and, like you, I like crab cakes that are mostly crabmeat, just a few seasonings and enough bread crumbs (or crackers) to bind them, the less other stuff the better!

  3. 3

    Denise@There's a Newf in My Soup! — April 8, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

    My favorite On the Road post thus far! What an adventure, and honor being invited to experience this remarkable business. I love stories of people who are doiing what they love, especially women! I’m a huge fan of soft-shell crabs, and crab cakes, but getting the crabs fresh off the crab boat is the way to go!

  4. 4

    sweetlife — April 8, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

    what a fun trip, beside the early morning, lol Kimberly passions really shine through, she’s lovely..thank you for sharing this great post with us and your crab cakes look amazing!!
    happy weekend!

  5. 5

    Christine @christinespantry — April 8, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

    Hi, I bet you have a fun trip. I wish I was there. Love the pics and the recipe. Thanks for sharing!


  6. 6

    Joyce @friendsdriftinn — April 11, 2011 @ 11:06 am

    Gwen, I love crabcakes….but they don’t love me! For you folks that are allergic to seafood, I feel your pain! I modified Kim O’Donnel’s Crab Cake recipe for Meatless Monday, and it came out pretty good. Here’s the link

  7. 7

    Nancy H — April 13, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

    Coincidentaly, My sisters, 4 of them will be heading to Charleston TODAY for our “sister’s trip, ” which we do each time one of us turns 50. I can not make it..but I sent the link!!

  8. 8

    Kimberly — April 20, 2011 @ 7:04 am

    Hi Ya’ll,

    What a great time we had on the boat, and so glad you came! the story was great and the photos were awesome.

    I took part in the 4th Chef’s Potluck Sunday at Middleton Place with the soft shell crabs. I was paired with FIG. We went through 225 soft shell sammies in about an hour! All the fair was “Locavore” and 10 restaurants and farms took part for Lowcountry Local First Event.

    Happy Easter!


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