Fisheries managers frequently try to protect juveniles in order to preserve stocks. Juveniles can be protected by either implementing changes designed to avoid catching immature animals (e.g. increasing mesh size or altering fishing techniques) or protecting nursery grounds. To prevent the capture of immature animals, an estimate of size at maturity is required as well as a knowledge of both fishing methods and the exact location of the nursery grounds. Strong demand for juvenile mud crabs to stock aquaculture ponds has resulted in development of fisheries targeting crabs of all sizes from instar 1 to mature individuals. Using five different fishing methods, different stages in the life cycle of Scylla paramamosain were followed for a period of 16 months in an estuarine population in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. Mangrove habitat utilisation begins when crabs settle out from the plankton at instar 1 [modal internal carapace width (ICW), 0.5 cm] amongst the pneumatophores at the mangrove fringe. Increasingly larger crabs were found deeper into the mangrove but they were still living on the surface (modal ICW size class, 1.5 cm). As their size increases, the crabs either dig burrows (modal ICW size class, 4.5 cm) or they live in the sub-tidal zone, migrating into the mangrove with each tide to feed (modal ICW size class, 4.5 cm). Larger crabs were caught offshore (modal ICW size class, 12.5 cm) where females accounted for 60% of the catch although of these, only 63% were mature. Recruitment of early instars was continuous but peaked in December to February. Subsequent peaks in the catch rates of larger size classes indicated the development of a single cohort with an estimated growth rate of 2.0 cm ICW per month. On the basis of abdominal width, females were estimated to mature at 10.2 cm ICW although at 9.7 cm ICW, 50% of females had disengaged abdomens. Abdominal disengagement occurred in males at the slightly smaller size of 9.1 cm ICW. Allometric relationships between chela height and carapace width suggested 50% of males acquire mature chelae at 10.2 cm ICW. These results demonstrate the close linkage between early life stages of S. paramamosain and certain specific niches within mangrove habitats, with the main adult population found to be living sub-tidally at some distance from the mouth of the estuary. The study also highlights the special importance of the mangrove fringe, the border between the mangrove forest and the sea, an area which is particularly vulnerable to physical and anthropogenic impacts.