The commercial and recreation stone crab season has opened! Now is the time to enjoy local stone crab claws. Whether you catch them yourself or buy from a local seafood market, the delicious meat is worth the effort and cost.
There are 2 species of stone crab found along the Gulf Coast. The Florida Stone Crab is found in the southern part of the state, while the Gulf stone crab is found from the Western Panhandle to Mexico.
Stone crabs can be found in holes along oyster reefs, rock jetties and shorelines lined with riprap. Adult stone crabs feed on oysters, mussels, clams, worms and other crustaceans.
Recreational harvesters must have a valid Florida Saltwater Fishing licence and are limited to 5 traps that meet the specifications set by FWC. Maximum trap size is 2″x2″x2″ and traps must have a degradable panel that is 5 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches and is made of cypress or untreated pine slat no thicker than ¾ of an inch. These regulations are to protect marine life from ghost fishing, when traps are abandoned or lost.
The recreational bag limit is one gallon of claws per person or 2 gallons per vessel or which ever is less. Only one crab claw should be taken. Crabs are released alive with one claw intact and are able to feed and defend themselves, which allows the crab to be caught again in the future. The claw that was removed will grow back each time the crab molts. Claws must be 2 3/4 inches in length from the tip of the claws to the first knuckle.
Watch the following video from FWC to learn how to harvest a claw correctly without injuring the crab.
Stone crab claws can be enjoyed cold or hot, in the shell or peeled and in many different dishes. Enjoy stone crab claw meat with mustard dipping sauce, in soup and bisque, crab cakes, salads, etc. Many recipes can found on-line.
Use a butter knife, mallet, claw cracker or hard spoon to crack the shells. If you want to prevent shell from flying around, cover the hand that will hold the claw or the surface that the claw will be cracked on with a dish towel. Gently tap the sections of the claws, until they are cracked, be careful not to break the shell into the meat.
Check out this video to learn how to crack stone crab claws:
For more information on commercial and recreational stone crab claw regulations click here.