Stone Crab season opens Oct. 15. You can head down to your favorite seafood restaurant and buy this Florida delicacy or you can go out and catch some yourself. While the majority of stone crabbers dive for their claws around local bridges and causeways, it is possible to find these tasty crustaceans bysnorkeling or wading around sea walls or rocky shorelines. But be advised, if you do plan to snorkel, even in shallow water, be sure to bring a dive flag.
The best place to search for crabs is in a mixed habitat. Stone crabs love to hide in rocky outcroppings near sea-grass beds. Just wait for a low tide and walk through the shallow water keeping an eye out for even the smallest piece of structure. Look for stone crab in any depression. Turn over rocks and other debris, but be ready, because these critters can scurry pretty darn quickly. You will also find them tucked away in deep holes so bring a flat bar to help coax them out of their hiding places. A dip net and a bucket or bag to carry the claws also is a good idea.
Be careful. The large crushing claw, the one most prized by crabbers for its tasty meat, is the stone crab's principal weapon. A fully-developed stone crab is strong enough to crush clams and oysters, so it easily can leave a human finger bruised, if not broken.
Before you take the claw, make sure it is legal. Claws must measure at least 2 and ¾ inches from the joint to the tip of the lower finger. The state allows you to take two claws of legal size, but most environmentally conscious people take one so the crab still can fend for itself. A large crab can re-grow a legal-sized claw within a year or two.
If you plan to scuba dive, snorkel or wade for stone crabs, you must have a Florida recreational saltwater fishing license. It is unlawful to take claws from females bearing eggs, which should be visible under the crab. The use of hooks, spears or other devices that crush or injure the crab's body also is prohibited.
Recreational crabbers may have 1 gallon of stone crab claws per person, or two gallons of stone crab claws per vessel, whichever is less. The season closes May 15. To learn more, click here.