Stone Crabs. You see the signs all over the keys. When you see the price, you have to wonder if they are worth it. Oh yeah. They are.
The Stone Crab is found in more places than Florida but it is certainly very popular here. Crab season is from mid October to May. There are regulations for both commercial and recreational trapping of crabs. Commercial fishermen can put out as many as 100 traps while a recreational fisherman is limited to five traps. Once the crab is caught, one or both claws can be harvested. The crab will have more chance of survival if only one is harvested.
The amazing thing is that the claws are regenerated. It takes anywhere from a few months to a couple of years depending upon the age of the crab. Of course the removing of the claw needs to be done correctly as well.
Female crabs with eggs are not allowed to be harvested. If they have an orange sac on the underside, they must be returned to the water without harvesting the claws.
So how does the crab survive without its claws? It becomes a scavenger keeping to places where they can conceal themselves since they are defenseless until new claws form. Apparently though, the main predator, the octopus, can easily prey upon them whether they have claws or not.
How are they prepared for eating? Unless you are catching your own, the places selling Stone Crab claws will have cooked them (I'm assuming steaming) and put them on ice. They will crack them for you or sell you a mallet. The claws are thicker than most other crab and lobster claws we've encountered.
A mustard sauce is a popular condiment for the claws.
Mix together a cup of mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons horseradish, 1 teaspoon mustard (brown spicy works best), 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and salt to taste.
A pound of claws sells for anywhere from $20 to $35 or more depending upon size and the market you visit. Small claws come 6 or 7 to a pound. We found some delicious good sized ones at The Fisheries in Marathon. Upstairs in the bar, you can order individual claws for $2.50 each. A great place to taste them and decide if you like them.
It was a forty-five minute drive one way for a light lunch of claws but it was worth it. Beautiful day. Wonderful claws. Great outing.