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Stone crab

Stone Crab Season is Back Here on the Suncoast

| Angela Naff |

That is right, as we move all move to the cooler temperatures of Fall and a step closer to the holiday season – Florida stone crab season is set to open shortly.

The season runs from October 15, 2021, through May 1, 2022. Florida stone crabs are commercially harvested in Florida. There are a few things to remember about this season:

  • The entire stone crab is not harvested; just the claws can regenerate 3-4 times in a crabs lifetime.
  • There are limits even for recreational crab fishers of one gallon of stone crab claws, or 2 gallons per boat
  • Minimum sizes for the claws to legally be harvested are 2 7/8 inches.
  • Adult stone crabs are easily recognizable by their dark brownish-red oval bodies and a unique marking on the inside of their claw that resembles a thumbprint.

Stone Crab Regulation Changes

Hopefully, this year’s offerings of stone crabs are better than in previous years as Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission has tried to reverse a long-term decline in harvests. However, the FWC did make some changes in that regard for commercial and recreational trappers that went into effect in 2020, but due to pandemic were probably not as well measured as years previous. Changes approved to try and improve the stone crab harvests include:

  • Moving the season end date from May 15 to May 1, closed on May 2.
  • Requiring a 2 3/16-inch escape ring in all plastic and wood stone crab traps before the start of the 2023/2024 season.
  • Increasing the minimum claw size limit by 1/8 inches from 2 3/4 inches to 2 7/8
  • Limiting possession of whole stone crabs on the water to two checker boxes, each up to 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet OR a total volume of 24 cubic feet. Checker boxes are used to hold crabs onboard a vessel before they are measured and legal-sized claws are removed.This is a prime business for many of Suncoast’s businesses and restaurants.

Places to Enjoy Stone Crab

One of the ways you can help during this time of year is to support various small businesses and events around the area put on by stone-crab-sustained businesses. Here are just some of the local businesses to keep in mind for your stone crab this season.

Cortez Fishing Village – was founded in the 1880s by settlers from North Carolina and is considered the oldest and one of the last remaining fishing villages in Florida. Keep an eye on the local vendors in the village for events featuring not just stone crab but fresh fish options and events year-round.

Cortez Stone Crab & Music Festival on November 13 & 14, 2021 – Annual festival held every November in the parking lot of Swordfish Grill and Tiki Bar.  This event features two days of live music, fresh seafood, a beer tent, a kid’s area, and local art vendors.

Cortez Bait & Seafood Fish Market – The Cortez Bait & Seafood Company has been the place for the “locals” to go for many years. Cortez, Florida, a fishing village, is known for its fresh fish and local catch! You will be able to buy fresh stone crabs here to prepare at home.

Anyone who loves to catch or eat stone crabs, it is your time of the year. Whether you go out on a boat to get your daily limit, stop and shop fresh options from local retailers, or order stone crabs for your next date night – you are in luck for the next few months here. stone crab claws are harvested right here, and we are in a great position for the freshest options of this delicacy anywhere.


Photo by Deposit Photos

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