Florida Keys Stone Crab Claws are Soooooooo Good!

Stone crab season in the Florida Keys is from October 15 through May 15 each year. If you hold a valid Florida Saltwater Fishing License you’re allowed to set out 5 traps per license.

I need to caution you. Putting stone crab traps out is a real commitment. You’ll need to plan to pull and rebait your traps on a regular schedule. If you’re traps are left too long, the bait will be eaten and the occupants will starve to death. They will become killing traps.

Time and again I’ll take folks out to let them see all that’s involved in having their own stone crab traps. Lots of them think it’s a cool idea to have their own traps. After one season most of them give it up. They found out it’s way more work than they first thought. Because sometimes you’ll need to go out when it’s cold windy nasty weather.

Florida Keys Stone Crab in trap

Stone Crabbing is a renewable fishery. You don’t have to kill the crab. You take the claws only. You can take both claws if they’re legal. The legal minimum size is 2 3/4". Now that’s just the claw, not the claw and the knuckles. These creatures will regrow the claws. In about 18 months they will have grown to legal size again. The whole crab must be returned to the water alive.

The best bait for stone crab’s is pig’s feet. They are very ugly and smelly. Their especially smelly when they’re a week or two old. Just try to get that smell off your hands. Purell works best for this. Some locals use cans of cheap cat food as bait. They punch a couple of holes in the can to allow the odor to attract the crab. I’m not convinced it’s a good bait. I think pigs feet work better and it lasts from pull to pull.

Bringing in Stone Crab Traps Florida Keys My friend Becky and I fish our traps every season. We both love it. The second best part of crabbing is opening the trap and discovering all the freeloaders munching on the bait. We get lobster , blue crab, spider crab, octopus, hog fish, tropical fish , all kinds of live shells and other strange creatures. Some of these we have to look up in the book to identify what they were. The most exciting new creature was the Batwing Coral Crab. Some of these end up in my aquarium.

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Many of these creatures are there for the plant and sponge life that grows on the traps as the season progresses. You can’t imagine how fast that stuff gets established and grows. This in turn provides habitat for small creatures all over the trap.

The best part of stone crabbing is eating them. This is my favorite seafood. If you haven’t tried them yet you’re in for a tasty treat. Most all restaurants in the Florida Keys have them on the menu. I prefer to eat the crab without any kind of sauce or butter. I love the crab flavor. It’s very sweet.

Removing the claws can get a little risky. I read that the crushing power of the claws is 19,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. OUCH! Don’t get your fingers in the claws. I’ve gotten pinched a few times, and it hurt.

Big Stone Crab Florida Keys To get into the meat you need to crack the claw open. You’ll need a hammer or a wooden mallet. These are sold at local seafood markets. I have a home made cracker that I use and also loan out to my friends.

This season we got the largest stone crab claws yet. A few of them weighed one pound each. And lots of them were over a half a pound each. It doesn’t take many that size to make a meal.

Stone Crab season just ended, I have a few left in the freezer. They should last me until lobster season opens here in the Florida Keys and I'll be out on the hunt for them.

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