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Stone crab season opens Friday

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Get ready for some tasty Florida stone crabs. The season opens Friday, October 15 and lasts until May 1. It is the time of year when restaurants will begin stocking fresh crab meat on the dinner menus as the harvest unfolds over the months ahead.

Mayport C&C Fisheries expects to have “Stones” available for purchase by Monday the 18th.

Florida is a stone crab hotspot making up 99% of all commercial harvests in the nation and the delicacy can cost twice as much as Alaskan snow crabs.

If you can’t wait for the fish market, try your luck trapping crabs throughout our waters in both shallow and deep offshore sandy or muddy bottoms. They are typically found around rocky outcrops or grass flats where they feed on seagrass and oysters.

Be careful handling the Stonies. If the powerful claws are strong enough to crack open oyster shells, imagine the pinch on a pinky.

Fishers break off the claws and throw the crab back into the water where it can survive as a scavenging crustacean.

A stone crab can re-grow either of its claws only if the joint that linked the claw to the body is left intact. This is why it’s so important for people to correctly break the claws off of the crabs.

A stone crab can only re-grow a claw if the diaphragm at the body/claw joint is left intact. The diaphragm functions as a seal to close the wound and stop the bleeding. If the claw is not broken correctly and the muscle tissue is pulled from the body, the crab will bleed to death.

Researchers found that 12.8% of crabs died when no claws were removed, when one claw was removed properly, 23-59% died, when two claws were removed properly 46-82% died

For an adult crab, it takes approximately three years for a regenerated claw to grow to 95% of its original size.

This year’s harvest is shortened by two week just like in 2020 to combat overfishing. The Florida stone crab numbers have declined steadily since 2015, prompting new limits on the season and claw size.

Be sure to register for free online before trapping at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. Daily bag limits are 1 gallon of claws per person or 2 gallons per vessel, whichever is less.

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