MARATHON (CBSMiami) – A Florida Keys man claimed the top prize at the Keys Fisheries Restaurant’s inaugural Stone Crab Claw Eating Contest.

On Saturday, Douglas Austin cracked and ate 25 stone crab claws in 16 minutes, 10 seconds.

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Austin, a self-proclaimed stone crab claw aficionado, developed a secret strategy from his longtime love of the succulent claws.

“If you just stayed focus and you just keeping eating and you know there’s a secret to this,” Austin said. “It’s called the spoon, instead of those crackers and that’s really why I won.

“Instead of a commercial cracker, a heavy spoon and get a rhythm going and it cracks the shells much more efficiently,” he said.

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Austin, whose first-place prize included a Key West hotel stay, sunset cruise and dinner for two, said he’s a stone crab claw connoisseur.

“I love stone crabs,” he said “We literally count the days until stone crab season opens.”

Stone crab claw meat is considered by many the crème de la crème of Florida Keys seafood. Stone crab claws are also the state’s only renewable seafood resource, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Legal-size claws are harvested between Oct. 15 and May 15 and the body is returned to the water to generate new claws.  Waters off the Florida Keys and lower southwest Florida produced more than half of about 2.7 million pounds of claws that were harvested last season in the state.

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