Get your claw-crackers ready, because Florida’s recreational and commercial stone crab claw harvest is set to open this Saturday, October 15.
Stone crab claws must measure at least 2¾ inches in length to be harvested legally, but claws may not be taken from egg-bearing female stone crabs. 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. Recreational and commercial traps may be baited and placed in the water beginning October 5, but none may be pulled until October 15. The season lasts until May 16, 2012.
Though stone crab harvest rules will remain the same, Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted in June to extend state management regulations for stone crabs into federal waters. This came after the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted to repeal the Fishery Management Plan for stone crabs in federal waters and allow the FWC to manage them in all waters surrounding Florida. This change goes into effect October 24.
Florida Stone Crab Season
Florida Stone Crab Rules and Regulations
- No females with eggs
- 2 3/4-inch claw
- Open season: Oct. 15 – May 15
- Bag limit: 1 gallon of claws per person or 2 gallons per vessel, whichever is less
Stone Crab Harvesting Gear
- It is unlawful to use any device on the taking of stone crabs that can puncture, crush, or injure the crab body, such as spears, grains, grabs, hooks, or similar devices.
- Maximum of five stone crabs traps per person.
Stone Crab Trapping Rules
- 5-trap maximum
- Buoy must have a legible “R” at least two inches high, permanently affixed to it. Buoys are not required if trap is fished from a dock.
- Trap shall have harvesters name and address permanently affixed to it in legible letters.
- Traps must be pulled manually (not by a trap puller). Any vessel that is rigged with a trap puller will be considered a commercial vessel and the appropriate licenses will be required.
- Traps must be pulled only during daylight hours.
- Traps must not be placed in navigational channels of the Intracoastal waterways, or in navigational channels maintained and marked by any county, municipal, state or federal governmental agency.
- A Florida recreational fishing license is required to harvest stone crabs under the recreational fishing regulations.
- Stone crab trap specifications are the same for recreational and commercial harvesters. Trap specifications may be found in Rule 68B-13.008, Florida Administrative Code.
Can both stone crab claws be harvested?
Both claws of a stone crab may be harvested lawfully if they are of legal size. Although it is currently lawful to harvest both of a stone crab’s claws this practice leaves the stone crab with few alternatives to defend itself from predators.
Although the crab can still obtain minimal amounts of food with no claws, having one claw (if the other one is harvested) will enable the crab to obtain greater amounts of food in a shorter amount of time. Stone crabs (like other crustaceans) have the ability to grow back their claws, but this process requires a large amount of energy in the form of food.
The quicker the crab can obtain the energy required to molt and grow its lost claw, the sooner this renewable delicacy will have another claw to replace the missing claw