Soft-shell 'Crabfather of Colington' has died


If you love fried soft-shell crab sandwiches, take time to honor and remember commercial fisherman Murray Bridges, the driving force behind putting them on your plate.

Bridges, the visionary Outer Banks fisherman who remade tiny Colington Island into a behemoth of the soft-shell crab industry in North Carolina, died August 22, 2023.

Bridges, 89, owned and operated Endurance Seafood Co. off Colington Road since 1976.

“One week ago, he was setting peeler pots and fishing them,” Willy Phillips, a close friend and a fellow crabber, told Coastal Review. “So, he fished to the end. That was Murray — his work ethic was incredible.”

Learn more: The Crabfather of Colington

A native of Wanchese, Bridges was instrumental in establishing soft-shell crab as a profitable shellfish product in North Carolina, while also insisting on the highest standards.

“There’s people that come along and transform the industry, and he was one of them,” Phillips said. “He was really kindhearted and hardworking. His example should be a guiding star because of the dedication to his work, his family and his industry.”

Phillips told Coastal Review that Bridges was proud of his service in his younger years as a merchant marine and then as a chief engineer on tugboats, when he “sailed,” as he called it, before he moved back home to his native Wanchese and started commercial fishing.

Bridges built the lucrative soft-crab industry from the ground up in Colington, seizing on the opportunity after learning about peelers from a N.C. Sea Grant program, and seeing how Virginia and Maryland fishermen were making money with soft-shell crabs.

Then through dint of his energy, innovative intelligence, and strict quality control, Bridges and Endurance Seafood Co. had birthed an economically viable industry during the traditional fishing off-season on the Outer Banks.

Read the full Coastal Review story about Bridges.

Photo: Outer Banks Voice

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