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Crab Season starts late this year -- but this 60 deg. chill we're having will help immensely.

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Crab Season starts late this year -- but this 60 deg. chill we're having will help immensely.

Tandoori Girl | Dec 8, 2003 12:25 PM

The following AP story (dated October) might give a clue as to why someone would recently have been served frozen claws at Joe's Stone Crabs, or elsewhere. My, oh my -- what's a tourist to do!!!

(locals in-the-know wait for the real stuff to come in, which is NOW, thanks to this spate of under 60 degree weather, brrrrrrr)

Associated Press report 10/29/03

CRYSTAL RIVER - A recent run of pleasant weather may make Florida's tourists happy, but it's leaving others feeling crabby.

The stone crab season was two weeks old on Wednesday, but fishermen, seafood wholesalers and restaurant owners are calling this year's start the worst in generations.

They say the temperate weather makes the crabs lethargic, and it will take a cold snap with strong winds and choppy water to get them to move around, search for food, and stumble into traps.

The much-anticipated season began Oct. 15. Stone crabs -- prized for their sweet claw meat -- usually are expensive, but some restaurants are charging a little extra because of lower-than-normal supplies.

"Traditionally, because of the five months of no harvest, you get a large number of your landings in the first four to six weeks," said Bob Gill, who manages the Cedar Key Fish & Oyster Co. in Homosassa. "We're not seeing what is typical. The crabs are presumably somewhere, but not where the traps are."

The season, which continues through May 15, traditionally yields about 3 million pounds of claws per year in Florida and is worth at least $50 million, officials said. Last season's harvest was 20 to 30 percent less than the previous year.

The stone crab is the state's only renewable commercial fishing resource. Legal-size claws are twisted off and the crab's body is returned to the water to grow new extremities.

Another obstacle for stone crab fishermen this season was the appearance of a full moon on Oct. 10, when traps were dropped into the water five days before the first harvest.

Stone crabs generally shed their hard outer shell around the time of the full moon, then decrease their mobility while they grow a new one.

At Billy's Stone Crab in Tierra Verde, the price of a dinner with large stone crab claws is $29.95. A year ago, the same dinner was $24.95. Owner Billy Moore says customers have complained.

"I say, `Listen, sir, these things don't grow on trees out back,"' Moore said. "They're weather-sensitive. We have to work hard for them. Every season's different."

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