The Stone Crab Grab

 Angry Stone CrabIn the cooler months in Florida, stone crabs seek the warmth of the brackish inter-coastal waters. For me, I’ll always think of these months as the ones my friends drop their Maryland-style crab traps (also called “crab pots”) to the floor of the Indian River Lagoon and check them every few evenings for any crustaceans.

Stone crabs range from the North Atlantic all the way down to Mexico and, although their bodies don’t have much meat, their claws are considered a delicacy served up with butter.  A Floridian from birth, I particularly enjoy eating all shellfish from crawdads to crabs.

This past Thursday night, I was lucky enough to be invited along to check my friend Eric’s crab trap.  Being an early March evening in Florida, the temperatures that were fairly warm in the day plummeted down to a fairly cold (especially for Florida) 53 degrees.

Barber Bridge

Even with the 15 miles per hour pace of Eric’s grandpa’s 20-plus-year-old pontoon boat, the whipping wind got through all of my coats and blankets.  And yes, I did say coats.  Not only did I wear a hoodie but a windbreaker over it.  My greatest regret was wearing low-cut socks.

Despite the adversity, we managed to seek out the buoy that marked the location of the trap.

Cold on the Boat

PHOTO CREDIT: Tex Widmer

By pulling the rope attached to the buoy, the crab trap can be easily hauled onboard.  Eric’s trap was set up recently in January but it was already covered in its own ecosystem: algae, barnacles, small oysters to name a few.

These traps look like a cube with one side that can be opened for trappers to peer inside.  The opening through which the unsuspecting crabs enter to inspect and eat the bait put inside but are trapped.  When the crabs go inside, they float to the bottom and cannot make their way back through the entrance they came.

Our trap had four prisoners large enough to confiscate claws from.  A legal-sized stone crab has claws that are at least 2.75 inches and are captured between October 15 and May 15 in the United States according to the Florida Wildlife Commission website.  Only five crabs per trap per time checked can have their claws removed by recreational crab trappers.

Stone Crab Prisoners

In order to sustain the stone crab population in the past, only one claw was allowed to be taken per crab but now it is legal to take both to be boiled.  The FWC still prefers that one claw be left for the crab to be able to defend itself and obtain food.  Stone crabs eat oysters, using their claws to crack open their tough shells.

Our crew uses a flathead screwdriver to break the crab claws off at the joint.  This process does not hurt the crabs and they regenerate these limbs after a few months.

Flathead amputation

PHOTO CREDIT: Lisa Behymer

When I was giving the screwdriver method a try, I was nervous because I typically don’t amputate limbs from any living thing but in the name of good seafood I mustered the courage.  Also, I definitely didn’t want to be anywhere near the claws that could snap my fingers in the same manner they crack their prey.

Stay tuned for my next post… I will be giving tips on cooking and eating stone crab claws!

Carina stone crab

PHOTO CREDIT: Lisa Behymer

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11 thoughts on “The Stone Crab Grab

  1. When I was a little girl my family lived on a canal in Ft. Lauderdale. The back yard was replete with small holes yet big enough that my 2 year old feet fit into them. Snap! Crabs would latch onto my little toes as they invaded their homes. Hey, maybe this is how I became a dancer…hopping around to avoid the crabs! Ask your dad about the holes, grandpa made him fill them with sand.

  2. Pingback: Crab Italian Style | jovinacooksitalian

  3. This is a really cool thing to do, although I honestly don’t see myself ever being brave enough to “amputate” a crab (although I sure don’t mind eating them). Looked like tons of fun and your pictures are great (the pink/purple jacket and shoes really popped out!). I did have some trouble while reading your content, there seems to be an odd sentence structure in a couple of paragraphs which stops the flow of your writing.

  4. You’ve included a lot of really interesting information in here about crabs. I did not know there were regulations on amputation and that they could regenerate their limbs (should I call them limbs?). This post is pretty insightful for those interested in getting out and doing this themselves.

  5. Wow what an adventure (and learning experience for me)! Thanks for sharing your trip and love of seafood.. I can relate there. The photos were great and matched up well to your writing. I have enjoyed reading your post! Keep up the brilliant blogging! 🙂

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