Florida’s recreational and commercial stone crab claw harvest season opens October 15 in state and federal waters with some major changes for 2020.
“Florida’s stone crab fishery has experienced a long-term decline in harvest and is likely undergoing overfishing,” the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stated as the reason for the stricter regulations.
The FWC approved changes that went into effect Oct. 1, 2020, include:
Moving the season end date from May 15 to May 1, closed on May 2, 2021;
Requiring a 2 3/16-inch escape ring in all plastic and wood stone crab traps before the start of the 2023/2024 season;
Increasing the minimum claw size limit by 1/8 inches from 2 3/4 inches to 2 7/8 inches; and
Limiting possession of whole stone crabs on the water to two checker boxes, each up to 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet OR a total volume of 24 cubic feet. Checker boxes are used to hold crabs on board a vessel before they are measured and legal-sized claws are removed.
Recreational harvesters who are age 16 and older and fish with traps are now required to complete an online, no-cost recreational stone crab trap registration and place their registration number on their traps before using them.
To register, visit GoOutdoorsFlorida.com and add the Recreational Stone Crab Trap Registration to your fishing license account.
Upon completion, each person will receive unique trap registration numbers that must be included on each trap along with the owner’s full name and address. This information must be legible and must be permanently attached to each trap.
This no-cost registration will allow the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to collect important information about these recreational fisheries, which is needed for future stock assessments and management decisions.
To be harvested, stone crab claws must be at least 2 and 7/8 inches in length when measured from the elbow to the tip of the lower immovable portion of the claw (see illustration).
View a video on how to properly remove the claw on the FWC YouTube channel and increase the chance the crabs you release will survive.
Harvesters are encouraged to take only one claw, even if both claws are of legal size, so the released crab will be better able to defend itself from predators.
A crab that is returned to the water with one claw intact will be able to obtain more food in a shorter amount of time and therefore regrow its claw faster.
There is a recreational daily bag limit of 1 gallon of claws per person or 2 gallons per vessel, whichever is less.
Claws may not be taken from egg-bearing stone crabs. Stone crabs may not be harvested with any device that can puncture, crush or injure a crab’s body. Examples of devices that can cause this kind of damage include spears and hooks.
Traps that are not being fished should be removed from the water to avoid ghost fishing, a process in which marine species get caught in the trap for extended periods of time and are not harvested.
The season will be open through May 1, 2021, closing May 2.
For more information, visit https://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/stone-crab/