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GULF & BAY Feature story on stone crabs, how to catch them, how to cook them, a little about their life history and to illustrate this, we are going to the Ozona Crab company in Palm Harbor.  A  jumbo-sized stone crab claw, which weighed in at 60 grams (about a half pound) is sorted Tuesday (10/19/2004) into a jumbo-sized lot at the Ozona Crab Company in Palm Harbor.

As season opens this week, it's time for stone crabbing 101

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  …


Terry Tomalin, Times Outdoors/Fitness Editor

Terry Tomalin

Terry Tomalin moved to Florida in the spring of 1980 for the sun and surf. After graduating from the University of South Florida in 1983, Tomalin backpacked through Europe, returning a few months later to work for a small Central Florida newspaper, where his stories on the Ku Klux Klan resulted in the resignation of a local sheriff.

Tomalin joined the Times as a police reporter in 1986, but left 18 months later to backpack through New Zealand and Australia. He returned a year later and transferred to the sports department to cover the great outdoors.

During the past 20 years, Tomalin has lived with witch doctors in the Amazon, explored sunken Mayan archaeological sites in Mexico, sailed to Cuba, canoed to the Bahamas and swam around Key West. Tomalin loves to fish, surf, paddle and enjoy all Florida has to offer.

A fellow of the prestigious Explorer's Club in New York City, Tomalin holds a master's degree in Florida studies and is involved in many community organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America.

Phone: (727) 893-8808


Twitter: @WaterTribe

  1. As season opens this week, it's time for stone crabbing 101


    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....

    Trey Stickland (not Strickland) holds one of the stone crabs taken during the Stone Crab dive trip on opening day of the season. Even though we can take both claws, we opt not to because it leaves the crab without a good way to protect itself from predators. It should be noted that we had the crabs on the boat to take photos, but it is illegal to posses the whole crab, and they were returned to the water. Diving the Misner Bridge, the 2 Bridge, and the Skyway Bridge, we got our limit within a hour and a half. Photo by Bill Hardman.
  2. Take It Outside Planner: Fishing village of Steinhatchee (w/video), paddle Weeki Wachee, catch barracuda



    Looking for Old Florida at its best? Head to Steinhatchee, a town of fewer than 2,000, located about three hours north of Tampa. One of Florida's first settlements, Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto and President Andrew Jackson both passed through here at one time, but today, the tiny fishing village caters to the outdoors crowd. The first thing you learn when you visit is how to say the name. Locals pronounce the "Stein" in Steinhatchee as "Steen," similar to "steam." The name is American Indian in origin. "Esteen hatchee" means river (hatchee) of man (esteen). The town has long been known for its scallops, but now that the season is closed, local fishing guides entertain tourists who come to fish the rich grass beds for trout, redfish, sheepshead, black sea bass and mangrove snapper. But the Big Bend region has more to offer than just scallops, crabs and fish. Head upstream and the Steinhatchee River provides great paddling opportunities. Be sure to pack a picnic lunch and check out Steinhatchee Falls. The spot was a historic crossing point for American Indians and other settlers. In terms of lodging, the laid-back luxury of Steinhatchee Landing Resort, a village of quaint rental cottages, is worth the trip. Complete with its own dock, pool, playground and neighborhood goats, you will find it an excellent base for any adventure. ...

    Steinhatchee, a small town about three hours north of Tampa, is Old Florida at its best. The town also provides good fishing and paddling opportunities.
  3. Fishing with jigs comes down to technique


    When it comes to catching fish, small changes can have big results. Twenty-five years on the fishing beat have taught me to keep my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut. So when my boss suggested I write a story about soft-plastic artificial baits, a.k.a. "jigs," I thought I would get a second opinion. • "A story? You could write a whole book," declared Joe Georgia of Seminole's Dogfish Tackle Company. "Where do you start?"

    Most anglers keep a variety of soft plastics in their tackle boxes. But why does one fisherman catch his limit while another fisherman using the same lure goes home empty-handed?

    "It is all about the presentation," Georgia said. "Many anglers just don't have the right technique."

    Soft plastics come in a variety of shapes, colors and even scents. They are designed to imitate everything from pass crabs to finger mullet.

    "You have to work each one differently," Georgia said. "There is no one size fits all."

    Artificial Shrimp: These lures, pioneered by tackle legend Mark Nichols of D.O.A. Lures, work for a variety of species. The most common mistake anglers make when working an artificial shrimp is retrieving the lure too fast. "The most natural way to work a shrimp is to cast it up tide and let it drift down tide naturally twitching slightly every few seconds," Georgia said. "Let the water do the work."...

    As spring approaches, Redfish will provide a dependable target for shallow water fishermen. Until the big schools of pilchards develop predictable patterns, jigs and soft plastic jerk baits provide effective artificial offerings. Photo by: DAVID A. BROWN
  4. Take It Outside Planner: Tampa Boat Show, biking the Withlacoochee Trail and osprey spotting



    Tis the season to go boating. Check out the 2016s this weekend at the Tampa Boat Show at the Tampa Convention Center. With hundreds of boats on land and in the water, you'll find everything from flats skiffs and tow boats to sportfishermen and mega yachts. Sign up for a boating workshop where you can hone your docking skills, or head over to Fred's Shed and learn how to fix an outboard motor. New this year is Try It Cove, where attendees can get out on a standup paddleboard. Visit from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. $12 adults, 15 and younger free. 333 S Franklin St., Tampa.


    This 12-foot-wide paved path runs 46 miles from the Owensboro Junction Trailhead north of Dade City through Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties to the Withlacoochee River just south of Dunnellon. Hit it early on a weekday and you might not see another rider for hours. Until now, Florida's longest paved trail was one of the best-kept secrets on the North Suncoast. The locals have long known and loved this bike path, and for a city slicker from St. Petersburg, it is a dream come true. Ride, ride, ride ... leave your worries behind. The trail is ideal for triathletes and competitive cyclists looking for a long, hard training ride. For families, especially those looking for a "nature" ride, the Withlacoochee State Trail is a must-see, as well. The old railroad was one of the first corridors of its kind to be purchased by the Florida Rails to Trails Program and converted for recreational use. This trail is generally flat, but a handful of hills keep it interesting. Also, be sure to leave time for some great side trips, such as hiking the Croom Tract of Withlacoochee State Forest, paddling the Withlacoochee River Canoe Trail or checking out the history at nearby Fort Cooper State Park.

    Boat buyers can browse among hundreds of boats on land and in the water at the Tampa Convention Center this weekend.
  5. Tampa Boat Show not just for big spenders



    They say there is no boat that does it all, but Steve Wacker thinks that is about to change.

    "This is really like an SUV on the water," he said of the new 28 XS from Nautic Star. "This is going to be a real marriage saver."

    If Wacker sold cars instead of boats, he'd tell you that this vehicle has the functionality of a pickup truck, but the comfort of a luxury sedan.

    "This is a true crossover craft," said Wacker, of Thunder Marine. "We think it will turn a few heads when it makes its debut at this year's Tampa Boat Show."

    And getting prospective buyers to stop and take a second look is what boat shows are all about.

    The Tampa event will feature dozens of next year's models, including the new Nautic Star.

    "Being a father with two young daughters and still having a hard-core fishing habit, it was hard finding a boat that did not lean too much one way or the other," Wacker said. "But this boat has plenty of forward seating, a sun pad for cruising but when the boys are ready to hit it, the 600 horsepower and 200 gallon fuel tank lets me hit the Middle Grounds and still be home for dinner."

    Not sure you want to buy a boat this weekend? ...

    A Nautic Star 28 SX is taken for a ride on Boca Ciega Bay, 9/25/15 by Captain Chris Miles, left and Stephen B. Wacker, right, of Thunder Marine, St. Petersburg. The boat will be featured at the upcoming Tampa Boat Show on Oct. 2-4, Tampa Convention Center by Thunder Marine. SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES

  6. Take It Outside Planner: Power boats (w/video), Tampa Bay Watch photo exhibit, tips for paddling Suwannee



    Some call it NASCAR on water, except with offshore power boat racing, the course can change with every lap. If you feel the need for speed, head out to Clearwater Beach this weekend for the Super Boat National Championship & Seafood Festival. Dozens of the world's fastest catamarans and mono-hulls will race deck to deck less than 100 yards off Pier 60. The bigger boats can hit speeds of close to 200 mph during race conditions, but get there early and watch as the boats test their equipment in the practice laps. It's free to watch from a perch on the sand, though you can get a closer look if you buy a ticket for $5 to $20. The action starts at noon Friday when you can see the boats up close in Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater, and at 6 p.m. the Tampa Bay Times Super Boat Parade goes down Cleveland Street with drivers and crews holding a meet and greet after. Saturday, the boats will do test runs offshore in the afternoon, and there will be a celebration at Pier 60 with fireworks after sunset. The big race takes place Sunday on the liquid track with heats at noon and 2 p.m. with the start and finish at the Hilton Clearwater Beach, 400 Mandalay Ave.

    Tampa Bay Watch will host a nature photography exhibit from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.
  7. Super Boats bring skill and speed to Clearwater Beach



    Johnny Tomlinson likes to let it hang loose.

    "The trick is to run just off the water," said one of the most successful powerboat racers in the world. "You want to be free, but in control."

    That fine line flying at 150 miles or more, barely skimming the surface, but not flipping — is what separates the winners from the losers in powerboat racing.

    The great ones, and the mild-mannered Tomlinson can be counted among the legends of the sport, flirt with danger, and at times even death, but always bring it back. For there's an adage when it comes to powerboat racing that it doesn't matter how fast you go if you don't finish the race.

    "I've gone over before and had my share of close calls," said Tomlinson, throttleman for the CMS Offshore Racing Team. "But the trick is to take it to the limit, but still be there at the end."

    The adrenalin rush, a byproduct of all extreme sports, is why Tomlinson and other powerboat racers risk their lives week after week. It's also the reason why thousands of fans will line up on Clearwater Beach this weekend for the Super Boat National Championships.

    "Clearwater is such a great venue for offshore racing and our teams really like coming here," said Rodrick Cox, spokesman for the Key West-based Super Boat International. "We are expecting a lot of big boats again this year and it should be a great race on Sunday."...

    CMS Motorsports will be one of the dozens of teams racing at this weekend’s Clearwater Super Boat National Championships.