By Tom Vaught
Boxes are filled
with stone crab claws that made their way to local
dinner tables by Sunday night.
sun staff writer
The race was on Sunday morning as stone crab season started,
and the crabs were more than willing to set a hot pace.
As gusty winds whipped the waters, local crabbers headed
for their traps well before sunrise Sunday. What they found
was likely to put smiles on their faces and thousands of
pounds of the savory crab claws on plates throughout Florida
during the next few weeks.
"It looks good," said Captain Mike Greig, of Captain
Mikes Charters from his boat Monday. "Theyre
big and theyre beautiful."
Greig brought in 320 pounds of claws on Sunday and he didnt
even pull all of his traps.
Captain Kim Ibasfalean said her brother-in-law, Brian, also
brought in hundreds of pounds when he went out Sunday. She
said he got an extra early start and reported that it looks
like its going to be a good season.
The demand for stone crabs, as usual, starts on the first
day of the season. Robert Hicks, of Moores Stone Crab
Restaurant on Longboat Key, said they started serving them
yesterday at 11:30 a.m. for lunch.
"Thats only the second time in all the years
I have worked here that weve gotten them in that early,"
he said. "Quite a few crabbers have been calling offering
to sell us claws. We have about 12 main suppliers we use
up and down the coast, including our local sellers."
Both Ibasfalean and Greig said stone crab season are cyclical,
but there is more to it.
"Red tide hasnt been as bad this year,"
said Ibasfalean. "Stone crabs dont like red tide,
so they leave. Its not like blue crabs, which dont
mind red tide. They stay and are plentiful."
Ibasfalean said the weather also plays a part.
"Hopefully, the weather will stay kind of like it is,"
she said. "If its too rough, its too hard
to get out there. If its too smooth, they bury up
and wont come near the traps."
Hicks said that last years red tide outbreak was probably
the reason the supply was so bad.
"We had a ton of light claws, but not a lot of jumbos,"
he said. "Its probably due to a lot of dead fish
from the red tide. Crabs are scavengers, but they probably
wont eat fish that have been dead on the bottom for
a few days."
Hicks said they got in 1,500 pounds of claws Sunday, and
only five pounds were the lighter size.
Ibasfalean said stone crabbers could use a good season.
"The last couple of years have been really tough,"
she said. "It would be nice to pay off some of those