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PINE ISLAND | SWFL welcomes back another stone crab season

New regulations await as stone crab operators shows us the process after Ian impacted the 2022 season.
LEE COUNTY | SWFL welcomes back another Stone Crab Season
Posted at 10:23 PM, Oct 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-16 22:24:30-04

ST JAMES CITY, Fla. — Southwest Florida seafood lovers welcome back another Stone Crab season, a symbol of fall for many.

October 15 marked the first day of Stone Crab season. At Island Crab Company, a wholesaler in St James City on Pine Island, crews worked diligently as fishermen lined up to cash in their first catches of the season.

"They can sell them to us, they can sell them to another guy down the street, but usually most crabbers are loyal to the place that they work for," said Quentin Darna, Manager at Island Crab Company.

However, this year fishermen have more rules to follow in order to keep the regenerative species safe.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC), starting this season, traps must have escape rings that are 2 3/16th inches in diameter for all stone crab traps.

Darna says last season was a successful one for many of their fishermen, despite the difficulties Hurricane Ian brought.

“Any of the debris that would have hurt the crabbers would’ve been in shallow water and these crabbers they crab in deeper water,” said Darna.

He also notes that Island Crab was able to bring in up to 1,200 pounds of stone crab per week to local restaurants.

However, Darna says, for crabbers the weather plays a huge factor in turnout.

"They bury up in the mud when the weather's clear to hide from predators, and only when you get cold fronts, the wind’s blowing, and the water turns muddy, does the crab come out of the mud and crawl around," said Darna. "That’s when you trap them."

From October until May, local fishermen will bring their catch and hope for better weather.