INDIAN RIVER KITCHEN
Claws for celebration
BY DANIELLE ROSE
There’s nothing more
satisfying than sitting
down and enjoying
stone crabs that were
caught the same day.
DANIELLE ROSE PHOTOS
The delicious reward for harvesting
stone crabs is worth the work
W ith claws powerful enough to crush oyster
shells, just imagine what a stone crab could
do to a finger. To catch them, a good deal of
courage and strong hands will be needed. If
bought, the only thing to worry about is your wallet getting
pinched. They often fetch more than $50 a pound. No matter
how you get your hands on them, stone crab claws are the
sweetest, most delectable meat ever tasted.
My family gathers for the opening of stone crab season
each year. We spend long days in the sun trying to catch our
limit. As the sun goes down, we clean up the boat, then head
to the kitchen to cook the day’s catch. We spend evenings on
the porch eating claws, drinking rum and telling stories about
monster stone crabs and other wild things we saw underwater
that day. Then next morning, we slather on more sunscreen
and do it all over again. We call it Stonecrabaganza,
a family tradition.
Stone crabs are a uniquely sustainable seafood because
only the claws are harvested; the live crab goes back in the
water. The ability to release their claws is a natural defense
mechanism that helps them escape predators like grouper,
octopus and sea turtles. Crabs can regenerate their claws up
to four times.
Even though stone crab is a naturally resilient fishery,
demand has skyrocketed. To rebuild stock and protect this
incredible resource, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission adopted new rules last year. The season is
two weeks shorter, running from Oct. 15 through May 1, and
the minimum claw size has increased to 2 7/8 inches.
Another important regulation remains unchanged: If you
notice a brown or orange sponge under the carapace, that’s
an egg-bearing female, which is completely off limits. Each
harvester can keep 1 gallon of claws per day, or 2 gallons per
boat, whichever is less.
There are two options to use when catching stone crabs.
The first and most common way to catch them is traps. Anyone
with a recreational saltwater fishing license can register
five recreational traps online for free. Trap specifications are
also strictly regulated, so check the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Commission’s website for more details.
The traps have to be baited and the stinkier the bait the
better. Fish heads are a popular choice. Once set, the traps