It’s the most wonderful time of the year (in Florida): Stone Crab Season! The onset of winter in Florida not only brings mild sunny weather but also the eagerly anticipated annual harvest of stone crab claws.
While the season is officially underway with its start in mid-October, the end date has moved up with the last day to harvest stone crabs May 1. Still plenty of time to get your fair share of this sweet, sustainably harvested shellfish.
Stone Crab Claws
The bodies of these crabs are rarely eaten, but their meaty claws are considered a delicacy.
Stone crabs can lose claws in two ways: the claw can be forcibly broken off when it is harvested by fishermen or lost in battle; or, a crab can intentionally drop any of its legs or claws if they are damaged or sick. Then, returned to water with the joint intact, the crab can regrow its claw(s). This is why it’s so important for fishermen to correctly break the claws off of the crabs.
Our local community of commercial fishermen in the area are no strangers to the correct way to retrieve a claw – returning them safely back to regrow their claws, continuing the cycle and then providing our favorite local eateries with delicious stone crab claws.
Cortez, a National Register of Historic Places community, is the oldest active fishing village in Florida. You can come watch the local fishermen unloading their catch daily, then enjoy some for yourself at one of the waterfront restaurants.
COVID-19 Impact on the Stone Crab Season
When speaking to the team at Swordfish Grill and Tiki in Cortez, we learned that even our beloved stone crab season had been affected by Covid-19. Their supply of Stone crab is off to a solid start this year, but the demand is down due to consumer confidence in restaurants amidst Covid-19. With the annual Stone Crab Festival canceled, they want to be sure everyone knows they can still safely and excitedly get their Stone Crab claw fix. Their catches are as fresh as can be and brought in daily right from their docks. They’re fortunate that 80% of our seats are outside now, so you can mask up, social distance, and still enjoy some stone crab and live music.
With Swordfish’s Stone Crab specials ranging from appetizers for $23 to large dinners for $36, you can get a taster or a feast, depending on your particular enthusiasm for these local specialities. Swordfish and your other favorite waterfront restaurants want you to know that although this year may feel a little different, stone crab season is still worth indulging in.
Let’s have a round of a-claws, for stone crab!
Photos from Swordfish Grill & Tiki