Each year at this time coastal folks start thinking about stone crabs. Cooler waters stir the tasty crustaceans into motion after being relatively lethargic most of the summer.
Open season: On Oct. 15 the recreational and commercial stone crab season opens. Anyone with a valid saltwater fishing license may put out up to five traps. These are baited with fish or pig's feet and are allowed to soak three to seven days between pulls. When the season is good, each trap may produce 1 to 2 pounds of keeper-sized claws. To be legal claws must measure 23/4 inches from the tip of the lower pincer to the first hinge.
Sport diving: Divers can also get in on the stone crab bonanza. Early in the season many scuba and freedivers will hunt the nearshore rock piles and jetties looking for telltale signs that indicate a crab is in a hole. As the stonies burrow in the sand near or under rocks, they excavate sand and shells outside the entrance. They also leave the shells from clams and other mollusks that they have eaten around the opening to their holes. The tricky part is catching them. In most cases, the diver sticks one hand into the hole, grabs the crab by a claw and pulls it into the open where he can get a hand on the other claw.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. Call (727) 944-3474 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.