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The Ins and Outs of Florida Stone Crab Season

stone crab season

Stone crabs are native to the Gulf Coast region of North America. These crabs are harvested during their winter migration northward along the Atlantic coast. About 90% of stone crabs come from Florida, so if you're visiting Florida during the stone crab season, you're in for a major treat.

The Florida stone crab dominates the local fishing industry during this season and in almost every part of Florida. Why not make a reservation today for the fast-approaching stone crab season? Here is everything you need to know about the Florida stone crab season.

When is Stone Crab Season in Florida?

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the stone crab season in Florida starts from October 15 each year to May 2 the following year. This commission monitors the population of commercial anglers.

The commission conducts yearly research on the stone crab population in Florida. In an effort to limit overfishing, the commission has previously revised the stone crab season from October 1st-May 2 to the current period. It is worth noting that while the season officially starts on October 15, commercial anglers are permitted to set in their traps ten days before the start.

How Do Stone Crabs Get to the Restaurant?

The crab bodies are typically small and often inedible. On the other hand, the big and robust crab claws are the most consumed and delicious parts of this sea delicacy.

The typical crabbing process starts with harvesting. Harvesting stone crabs begins by setting traps to catch the crabs. The next step in harvesting is to remove one or both claws from the live crab before returning it to the water, where the lost limb can regrow.

Fortunately, this harvesting part doesn't harm the crabs. We consider crabs a renewable source of the delicious stone crab delicacy we serve at The Rusty Pelican.

The standard measurement for the perfect crab claw is 2 7/8" (73.025 mm) in length, measured from the immovable fingertips to the first joint. Male crab claws can grow up to 140 millimeters or 5 ½" in length. Conversely, female crab claws can grow to lengths of up to 120 millimeters (4¾").

Claw regrowth in an adult crab can take up to 12 months due to the adult female's fall and the adult male's winter seasonal molting. The regenerating claws start smaller than the original ones and grow gradually with every molt.

Fortunately, stone crab fishing is regulated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Regulation limits overfishing and ensures the species' long-term sustainability. Additionally, female crab species carrying eggs are advisably returned into the water immediately safe and unharmed to keep the eggs alive.

The Stone Crab's Delicious Claw

The crab's claw is the most elemental part to ensure the crab's survival and offer you a delicacy. As crabs mature, they feed on clams and snails, often covered by their shells. The crab uses its claws–which exert approximately 19,000 pressure pounds per square inch–to crack open the clam and snail shells.

The crab's claw is the most prized part of the animal since it contains a large meat portion. As previously mentioned, proper claw harvesting is vital to ensure regeneration within the estimated 12 months. The claws can take up to three years to grow to a legal size that meets harvesting requirements.

While professional trappers can remove both crab claws provided they both meet requirements, there is often a reduced chance of survival for the crabs. They will remove one claw and return the stone crab into the water. A crab's life expectancy is eight years, meaning the claws can be harvested several times.

How to Harvest Crab Claws

Below are the general steps for harvesting claws from the crabs.

  • Upon catching the crabs, remove the crusher claw without killing the animal

  • Using your fingers, grab the large claw, then hold the crab's body firmly

  • Press the crab's claw down and away from its body.

With consistent pressure, the crab will drop the claw. A clean break means a clean and safe harvest.

Benefits of Adding Stone Crab Claws to Your Diet

Here is why you should try the crab claw during this Florida stone crab season:

  • Crabs are an excellent protein source

  • They have few calories and are low on fat

  • They contain a variety of nutrients such as Omega-3 and Vitamin B2

  • Stone crabs are a sustainable source of delicious food.

Enjoy the Best Stone Crabs in Florida

Are you looking to sample some of the sunshine state's finest glories this Florida stone crab season? Make your reservation at The Rusty Pelican and enjoy some of the best stone crabs in Florida.

Featured Image: nyker/Shutterstock