Stone Crab season opened Monday and initial results are good. The availability of healthy and big stone crabs seems to be better this year than this time last year. The big difference, so far, has been the larger concentrations of egg-bearing female stone crabs. In the past few years, the average was about two to three of these egg-bearing females per 15 crabs that were caught. For our divers, the numbers averaged about six to seven of the egg-bearing females per 15 crabs. Those numbers aren't so good for harvest numbers, but it is refreshing to see all those eggs. The visibility around the bridges north of the Skyway was the best. In some places it was as much as 6-7 feet. The bridges closer to homes and infrastructure had about 2-3 feet on the first day of the season. Make sure you know how to break off the claws without causing harm to the crabs. In most cases, only one of the claws is big enough to harvest. Two gallons of claws is the limit for the boat (not per person). These crabs have crushing claws, so proper protection on your hands and fingers is a must. The other dangerous part is complacency can cause injuries. Just when you start getting into the groove of grabbing these crabs, the tendency to get sloppy creeps in and a crab gets ahold of you. Stay alert.
Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 344-3483 and firstname.lastname@example.org.