There are two events in the Sunshine State that mark the return of fall and early winter in Florida: The return of cooler weather and the Florida stone crab season.
Stone crab season in Florida runs Oct. 15 through May 15. Those delicious stone crab claws that visitors of Sanibel and Fort Myers crave can only be harvested during that time. You need to have a saltwater fishing license and know what claws you can harvest and what needs to be thrown back.
Follow our guide for harvesting and eating Florida stone crab!
How Long is Stone Crab Season?
Florida stone crab season has a seven month window. It runs from Oct. 15 through May 15 every year in the Sunshine State.
Where are Stone Crabs Found in Florida?
Harvesting stone crabs off the shores of Sanibel Island and Fort Myers is the best way to find delicious Florida stone crabs.
Tips to find Florida stone crabs include:
- Looking for them in shallow spots
- Find then hiding in rocky locations
- Skimming the seagrasses where they hide in knee-deep hiding spots
- Look for them around docks, seawalls, bridges, passes and inlets
How Do I Get a Saltwater Fishing License?
Recreational crab fishers seeking to use traps during Florida stone crab season must have a valid recreational saltwater fishing license. Each state has different age and license requirements for boaters. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) requires Florida residents and visitors to have a $17 saltwater fishing license. There are FWC license exemptions that visitors and part-time Florida residents can qualify for though. You can purchase licenses at your local tax collector’s office.
What Are the Stone Crab Harvest Basics?
A baited trap is the main stone crab harvest method used both for commercial and recreational fishers. Some adventurous recreational fishers use their bare hands to catch stone crabs while using scuba or snorkel gear. It’s best to place traps near depressions or rocks where stone crabs can be lurking and hiding. You can review FWC stone crab fishing tips to learn more.
How Many Stone Crab Claws Can You Take?
There are Florida stone crab season limits. Recreational crab fishers are limited to five traps per person. You can catch one gallon of stone crab claws per person as a recreational crabber, or 2 gallons of stone crab claws per vessel, whichever is less.
To reiterate, harvesters can take no more than 1 gallon of legal stone crab claws per day. There can also be no more than 2 gallons of legal stone crab claws on a boat at any given time. Be careful because boats will be checked randomly.
How Do I Measure Stone Crab Claws?
When measuring stone crab claws, the size of the claw is measured by the length of the propodus. What’s the propodus, you ask? It’s the larger immovable part of the claw.
Legal-sized claws are 70 millimeters (2 and ¾ inches) or greater in propodus length. The measurement is taken from the base of the propodus (at the joint of the elbow) to the outer tip of the propodus.
What is the Best Size Stone Crab?
Large stone crabs are the best of course! Why? They are full of more meat that other stone crab claws.
The largest male claws are approximately 140 millimeters, or approximately 5 and ½ inches long. The largest female claws are about 120 millimeters, or 4 and ¾ inches.
How Do I Distinguish Male and Female Stone Crabs?
The best way to tell apart male and female stone crabs is to remember this phrase: “Wide females and tall males.”
Female stone crabs have wider abdomens. Male stone crabs have long, narrow abdomens.
How Do I Harvest Stone Crab Claws?
Once you’ve caught stone crabs that have legal-size claws to harvest, it’s time to remove the claw without killing the crab. Grab a claw with your fingers, and hold the body firmly between your hands. Press the claw down and away from the body. Using constant pressure, the crab should drop its claw. You’ve done it right if the break is clean.
How Long Does it Take for a Stone Crab to Regrow its Claw?
Stone crabs can live several years and regenerate their claws, which take about 3 years to grow back. If a human, predator or a fish take hold of the claw, the crab knows how to release, or unhinge its claw and get away. The crab then works to grow its claw back, which is why you can typically find stone crabs with claws of different sizes. A claw can grow back earlier, in about a year’s time, if the claw is broken from the crab properly.
Do Stone Crab Claws Grow Back?
Stone crabs can live several years and regenerate their claws, which take about a year to grow back. If a human, predator or a fish take hold of the claw, the crab knows how to release, or unhinge its claw and get away. The crab then works to grow its claw back, which is why you can typically find stone crabs with claws of different sizes.
Where Can I Find Places to Eat Stone Crabs?
If you are looking to eat harvested stone crabs cooked to perfection, the area of Sanibel Island and Fort Myers has you covered with a variety of restaurants serving fresh stone crabs during Florida stone crab season.
Here are a few must-stop fresh seafood locations to visit during Florida stone crab season:
Fort Myers Stone Crab Restaurants:
Sanibel Island Stone Crab Spots:
Can You Eat the Body of a Stone Crab?
The body of the stone crab can also be eaten if it’s boiled to access the tender meat that is located inside the body. The meat of the stone crab claws, will always be more tender and sweeter.
Plan Your Florida Stone Crab Season Adventure
Rent a boat or schedule a fishing charter today. If you need a place to stay to enjoy all the area has to offer, book a fully furnished condo at Royal Shell Vacation Rentals or Sundial Beach Resort & Spa. Sundial guests receive 30 percent off boat, canoe and kayak rentals. Call (239) 437-1660 to plan your trip today!