Fisherman say stone crab season is worst yet
Matlacha, Fla. - For fisherman Eddie Barnhill, stone crabbing is in his DNA.
"My father's crabbed, my grandfather's crabbed," said Barnhill.
It's the very reason he opened Barnhill Fisheries, Inc. five years ago in Matlacha. He specializes in selling claws wholesale.
"That's where the money is to be made, it's in the stone crabs," he explained.
But not this year.
"Stone crabbing is terrible," added Barnhill. "It started out bad and it's only gotten worse."
Facing the worst season yet, Barnhill is banking on mullet sales to make ends meet.
"If we don't' have stone crabs, we don't make money and right now we're not making any money," said Barnhill.
During a typical season, he says his freezer is stacked with about 2,000 pounds of crab. Today, there's less than 200. He's raised his prices by $2 a pound in two weeks.
"When stone crabbing was good, it was nothing to get 3,000 to 4,000 pounds a night," explained Barnhill. "Now, we're getting 300 to 400 pounds a night."
Barnhill and others blame the bleak season on unusually warm weather. He says it keeps the crabs in place preventing them from moving toward the traps. They're hoping this weekend's cold front will change things.
"We've got our fingers crossed that will turn them on and if it don't, we're really going to be in trouble," said Barnhill.
He says because now is when they need the crustaceans most.
"This is the time of year when we can sell them no matter what because it's Christmas, it's New Years and now is when everyone wants the crabs," concluded Barnhill.