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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Seafood lovers rejoice! Monday is the official start of Stone Crab season.
Florida is responsible for 99-percent of stone crabs in the U.S. It’s among the state’s top four most valuable fisheries, behind spiny lobster, red grouper and shrimp.
So will the recent red tide and Hurricane Michael’s trek through the Gulf of Mexico affect the start of the season?
Nobody really knows yet but according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the edible parts of stone crabs are not affected by red tide and are safe to eat.
So how much will they cost? In general, experts say the season’s pricing starts where last season’s ended, which in this case means pricey, about $20 to $40 per pound depending on size.
Stone crabs were pretty scarce last year after Hurricane Irma. The season started strong, but traps started to come up empty halfway through the season causing prices to skyrocket.
Rules are still the same for recreational and commercial fishermen who can hunt for the tasty crustaceans in state and federal waters.
- When catching catch a crab the claws can be removed, but throw back the crab
- Crabs must be captured in baited traps, declawed and released
- Egg bearing females cannot be declawed
- No hooks or spears are allowed
- Stone crab claws must be at least 2¾ inches in length to be harvested legally
- Round entrances (also known as throats or funnels) are not allowed for stone crab traps in state or federal waters off Collier, Monroe and Miami-Dade counties.
- There is a recreational daily bag limit of 1 gallon of claws per person or 2 gallons per vessel, whichever is less.
The nice thing about eating stone crab claws, other than they are delicious, is that stone crab claws are the only renewable resource from the water. Crabbers are asked to take only one claw from each crab, which is then regenerated over time.
A crab that is returned to the water with one claw intact is able to get more food in a shorter amount of time and therefore regrow its claw faster.
When in season, stone crabs are widely available at seafood stores and supermarkets throughout South Florida. The claws are cooked soon after being harvested, then chilled and served cold. If you get them cracked at the store, it’s best to eat them within 12 hours. If you buy them uncracked, they can be refrigerated and eaten within two days.
And if you’re already a stone crab fan, then you know they come at a hefty price.
Prices do fluctuate but are most expensive during peak demand such as the first week of the season, and around major holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve and even the Super Bowl.
The season runs through May 15.
Click Here for a complete list of rules and regulations from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.