It is said that fall arrived last month, but if you live and love the water, the season doesn't officially start until you've eaten your first stone crab.
Technically speaking, these crustaceans can be found from North Carolina to Mexico, but Florida should claim the title of stone crab capital of the world.
It is our No. 1 commercial seafood, worth $25 million a year. In case you are wondering, Caribbean spiny lobster ranks a close second at $24 million followed by white shrimp at $17.2 million and the local favorite, red grouper, at $16.8 million.
But the stone crab has the honor of being the only sustainable marine resource in the United States because it will easily release its big meaty claw (the tasty part) when threatened, and thus it can be returned to the water unharmed.
According to state biologists, about 20 percent of claws measured in fish houses have been regenerated, evidence that crabs survive after being declawed.
There is a trick to it. To remove a claw without killing the crab, pick up the crustacean with both hands, then gently bend one claw outward. With steady pressure, the crab should "drop" the claw.
Sound easy? Not if you are fighting a stiff current in 15 feet of water, keeping an eye out along the bridge pilings for hammerheads. And if the sharks don't get you, the crab just might....