How to Store Live Crabs
If you decide to save your crabs for later then you will need a cold box or a walk-in refrigerator. Keep the temperature at 42 degrees. Once you place the basket of crabs in the cold box, they will go into a state of semi hibernation. Their system slows down because of the cold and you can keep them for a couple of days. This can be tricky so expect some losses.
When you are ready to eat them, bring them out of the cold box and let them warm up slowly. As they warm they will begin to move around. The ones that do not move around are dead and must be discarded. If you plan to freeze soft shell crabs, clean them first. NEVER COOK A CRAB THAT IS DEAD!
You MUST keep them moist. Dump water on them at least every 12 hours and remove the excess so they do not drown. Refrigerators are frost free and will remove moisture. DO NOT cover them with a lid, they will smother. Once cold they will not move around. Experiment with a couple so you get the idea.
Transporting Live Crabs
Transporting crabs is where many crabbers lose much of their catch because a few simple measures are not followed by first preparing them for the trip. Before anything else, make sure you pour water over your catch to get them as wet as possible for the trip. All your hard work in catching crabs is of no consequence if you do not get crabs home safely and alive.
If the crabs are going to be in the sun, such as in the bed of a pickup truck, put a wet towel over the basket. Do the same for ride in the trunk of a car. However, you may want to place plastic sheeting in the trunk or on the seat to keep it dry.
Under NO circumstances should you fill a cooler with water and put crabs in it for the trip home. They will drown because the water will not have enough oxygen for crabs to breathe. You can get a few frozen water bottles with the tops on and place them in the cooler or you can put ice over them, but keep the crabs out of the water as the ice melts. Once home, let them warm up and see which ones are moving. The ones that do not move are dead and should be thrown away.
How about cleaning them at the dock? You can also ice them down until they are no longer moving. Remove the carapace and clean them. Wrap them in a plastic bag and put them on ice for the trip back home.