The commercial and recreational harvest season for stone crab claws in Florida opens today, Oct. 15 and runs until May 15. Scuba divers that have been checking near local bridges and causeways, are saying this season could be another great one.
Stone crabs can be found along rocky shorelines, and by scuba diving around local bridges. But low visibility and strong currents in those areas can be dangerous, so it's better to leave that to experienced divers.
Stone crabs have two claws, but since they are threatened, only one claw can be taken and the crab has to be returned to the water alive, with the other claw still intact. Another claw will grow back to replace the one taken. A stone-crabber grabs one of the claws, applies a little pressure, and the animal simply lets it go. But I've been told there is skill involved, if the claw is removed the wrong way, it could possibly kill the crab.
Most stone crabs have one claw that is larger than the other. The largest, is the one most desired for the dinner table and is the animal's weapon to crush clams and oysters. Just imagine what it could do to a finger, great care should be used when handling these crabs.
Florida law requires crabbers to have a saltwater fishing license. Claws may not be taken from egg-bearing female stone crabs which should be visible under the crab. The use of hooks, spears or devices that could injure the crab's body also are prohibited.
Recreational harvesters are allowed to use up to five stone crab traps, and there is a daily bag limit of one gallon of claws per person or two gallons per vessel, whichever is less.
Most Stone crabs are taken in commercial traps. The claws are sold to seafood houses where they are cooked and immediately cooled, which keeps the meat from sticking to the shell. Claws are boiled for eight minutes at 160 degrees, flushed in cool, fresh water and then covered with ice. They are graded into three sizes, with 3 to 5 ozs being average.
Since the claws are already cooked, all we have to do is just crack and eat. Or they can be slightly heated and served with drawn butter or cold with mustard sauce made in a variety of ways, with mayonnaise or sour cream, and added items like parsley flakes, Worcestershire or A-1 Sauce, salt and pepper. However you like them, they are delicious.