ALTHOUGH THE ATLANTIC STONE CRAB lives in the waters as far north as Connecticut. The best claws come from Florida. Here, the vast majority of the commercial harvest takes place, in areas as far south as the Florida Keys to Sarasota in the Gulf of Mexico.
Named for their extremely hard shells, the claws of the stone crab are a coveted delicacy. With a flavor and texture often compared to lobster. Unlike other crabs such as Maine’s “Peekytoe,” the Chesapeake Blue, or the Pacific Dungeness, stone crabs are harvested strictly for their claws. Not picked for their leg and body meat.
The success of this Fishery relies on the Stone Crab’s natural ability to regenerate its claws up to 3-4 times in its lifetime. For this reason, the taking of live crabs is illegal in Florida. Instead, only the claws are taken. The crab is released alive back to the wild to grow new claws. Potentially, it could end up in the pot again for harvest.
Stone crabs are oval in shape and dark, reddish in color, with two very large claws. Their “crusher” claw, the larger of the two, is the one most selected for harvest. In nature, stone crabs lose their limbs frequently when attacked by predators or moving into restrictive spaces. Their regrowth is estimated to take one to two years to occur.
To Legally Harvest…
The claws must be 2 ¾ inches in length from their “elbow,” or first joint, to the tip of the lower immovable claw, or “finger.” Fishers can remove both claws if of legal size. Most take only the more robust “crusher.” Then, they return the crab with one claw to aid in its survivability. Harvest methods are trap or pots only. The use of spears or hooks are strictly forbidden. Egg-bearing females are not allowed for harvest.
Upon harvest dockside, the fisher or processor immediately cooks the stone crab.This prevents the meat from sticking to the shell. Then, sold fresh, or immediately frozen. Because of their sweet-tasting, firm meat, stone crab claws need little or no embellishment.
Served very simply. Cold with drawn butter, lemon, cocktail sauce, mayonnaise, or vinaigrette. Their meat can also be picked and used in salads or rolls. When purchasing frozen claws, only thaw in refrigeration as abrupt exposure to temperature can greatly diminish their flavor.
Stone Crab Claws Available:
- MEDIUM (5-8 per lb.)
- LARGE (3-5 per lb.)
- JUMBO (3 per lb.)
- COLOSSAL (1-2 per lb).
Subject to Availability.
Catch Region: Florida – State & Federal Waters
Seasonality: October to March
Catch Method: Trap & Pots
Yield: Approximately 2.5 lbs. of Cooked Claws yields 1 lb. of Meat
Flavor Profile: Sweet and Mild
Texture Profile: Firm
- Lobster Meat
- Peekytoe Crab