Stone Crabbing in the Florida Keys!
In the Florida Keys when the fishing is slow or the winds are blowing we still have an opportunity to get out on the water and go stone crabbing! It's comforting to know we have a set of traps waiting for us to harvest some stone crabs. We can almost always count on this “fool-proof seafood!” In Florida, stone crab season starts October 15 and runs through May 15. It works out well for those cold and rough winter days offshore and its one of the many perks of being a resident of the Keys. Recreational crab fishermen are allowed 5 traps per person with recreational saltwater fishing license.
This year we purchased and built our first set of traps from Cudjoe Sales Fishermen's Warehouse out of Cudjoe Key. The kits come ready to build with everything needed except a drill and concrete which is used to weigh the traps down. It took us one afternoon to assembled all 10 traps. After a few days when the concrete has cured, the traps were ready to be dropped! We loaded them into our boat and headed to 5 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico. For bait we used Tyson chicken thighs on sale from Winn Dixie. Pig’s feet and fish carcasses are also used to entice the crabs for an easy meal. Emily baited and dropped all 10 traps over the rocky bottom. Now all we had to do was wait eagerly and patiently!
About a week later we headed back out to pull our traps and see what we collected! It’s like a grab bag from the sea. We had a wide variety of species, including pufferfish, lobster, spider crabs and of course the distinctive stone crab! Picking stone crabs up is tricky business. You have to be careful and quick without getting pinched by their powerful claws. You’ll want to make sure you grab both claws at the same time to avoid the crab reaching across and pinching you with 19,000 pounds of pressure per square inch - YIKES! If you get pinched, just hold still and the crab will let go.
Once you gain control of the crab you’ll need to measure the claw to determine if its a keeper, which is 2 and 3/4 inches from the elbow to the tip of the lower pincher. Place the crab on a solid surface and push straight down to release the claw. You now have a delicious claw all the while sparing the crab’s life. The stone crab is a sustainable resource because it is returned alive to regenerate a brand new claw!
Not a recreational crabber? No worries. During the season stone crab claws are a popular item on restaurant menus. You can usually get them in several sizes; medium, large, jumbo or colossal. If you haven’t tried them, we highly recommend you do. They are boiled or steamed and usually served chilled with mustard sauce but are equally delicious warm with drawn butter!
The Gale Force Twins