Stone crab season kicks off!
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
Pine Island, Fla. -
Today kicked off the start of stone crab season! for those who don't know, it's unique to Florida's gulf coast and a real delicacy here in Southwest Florida. Last year the stone crab take was down due to a red tide that lingered on too long and an unusual and fatal parasite. Some say it was the worse ever. That's why many locals were looking forward to this season starting back.
"Opening day for stone crabs is the kickoff to the season for us and really a sign of things looking up," says John Vorndran of Island Crabs which owns the Pinchers Crab Shack restaurants.
The crew started at 5:30 this morning and usually work twelve hour days, six or seven days a week. "How many traps did you get today?" asked Culbreth. "675," answered Brett Powell. About how many pounds of stone crab?", "Probably close to 150 or so."
The trap is a little bigger than a milk crate, has concrete in the bottom of it to keep it down on the bottom. It has a hole in it about the size of a kid's shoe. "The crab will go down through this funnel and once he goes down in there unless he's small enough it's really hard enough for him to come back up through that funnel so it's hard for him to escape," said crabber Matt Overby.
Island Crab is a local company that has hundreds of traps that they put pigs feet or chicken in for bait. Then they check them about every ten days. "Some have none, some have one, some have two, some have a bunch," added Overby. "Some are just loaded and you don't know where to begin grabbing em because you don't wanna be pinched (laughs)."
According to state laws, the pinchers must be two and three quarter inches long to harvest. On this day, he crabbers load up three large baskets of claws and take them to Island Crab on Pine Island. First they put all the crab claws in onion bags for easier handling. "Then they'll take the bags and put them into the cooker and they'll start the water and get it boiling. It takes about eight minutes once the water's boiling to cook. After that they go into an ice bath to chill em down and then they'll start grading through to decide whether they're medium, large, or jumbos."
That determines the price and what the boat crew gets paid. Then they pack them up and get them to the restaurant in time for people to order them for tonight's dinner. "Compared to last year it's looking pretty good," added Vorndran.
If you catch some yourself, you should know these rules:
(1) The claws must be 2 3/4 inches long
(2) Females with eggs can not be taken
(3) One gallon per person
(4) Two gallons per boat.