Food Industry

Stone Crab Season Ends May 16: Last Call for Claws

Stone crab season is almost over, and once again it's time for Miamians to get their last taste of sweet claw meat before the last boat docks for the summer.

The season, which runs from October 15 through May 16, winds down this weekend, with fishermen catching their last crabs. The rules of harvesting stone crabs are succinct and strict, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission:
The commercial and recreational harvest of stone crab claws in Florida closes on May 16, with the last day of harvest on May 15. Stone crab season will reopen on Oct. 15. This five-month closure occurs each year during the peak spawning season to help conserve and sustain Florida’s valuable stone crab resource. Commercially harvested stone crab claws may be possessed and sold during the closed season but only if they have been placed in inventory prior to May 16 by a licensed wholesale or retail dealer. Stone crab traps must be removed from the water within five days after the close of the stone crab season unless a special extension is granted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and stone crab claws cannot be harvested from traps pulled after the season closes.
Why are we so obsessed with stone crabs?

Izzy's Fish & Oyster's Jamie DeRosa says it's because these little crustaceans represent what's best and brightest about South Florida. "Stone crabs are one of the few luxury items that Florida produces from the sea. It's our pièce de résistance. It's what we do well." DeRosa says that it's also the dish most attached to the sun and sea of Miami. "It's synonymous with our lifestyle. In the winter, it's freezing up north. You come to Miami to bask in the sun, have a mojito, and eat stone crabs. It's part of who we are."

The chef also notes that stone crabs are probably the most ethically sourced seafood in Florida, as well. "We keep a cycle of life by removing only one claw so the crabs can regenerate and having a stringent and short fishing season. It's the most sustainable seafood product there is." 

DeRosa adds that stone crabs could also be the freshest seafood experience you're likely to have. "The crabs are caught and cooked to perfection right at the source. They should be fresh and perfect all the time." That doesn't mean that all restaurants serve fresh from the boat claws. DeRosa has a few tips for finding the freshest claws. "When you crack a stone crab, the meat should be white and not translucent. IT should be tender and never icy. The meat should pull away from the shell with ease." DeRosa, who sources his stone crabs from Miami River Lobster daily, says you'll know if you get stone crabs that are previously frozen. "The meat reduces in size and the texture is simply not that of a fresh product."

In fact, even though there are still a few days left to the season, many fishermen have packed up until October. Roger Duarte of George Stone Crab and My Ceviche says that of the 80 or so boats he normally deals with, only about five fishermen are still on the waters. "For most, the stone crab season is already over." That means that by the middle of next week, all fresh stone crabs should be gone until the fall. Duarte says he will still likely have claws through the beginning of next week. "Inventory will have run down by then, for sure. We always want to have the freshest stone crabs or we don't sell them. What we don't sell today, we send back to the wholesaler."

If you want a last taste of those sweet claws until October, here are some of your best bets:

George Stone Crab
Founder Roger Duarte sources his stone crabs from 80 different fishermen in Florida Bay and the Keys in order to procure the freshest claws available. Crabs are delivered to your doorstep within 24 to 36 hours of being caught and cooked or can be shipped most anywhere. Claws are available in medium, large, jumbo, and colossal, and come with mustard sauce. Dinners are sold per family, with an average of one and a half pounds of claws allotted per person. A family of two, for instance, includes three pounds total of whatever size claws you prefer and a dinner for two of jumbo claws delivered to Midtown Miami is about $160 (prices vary by location and market pricing). Add a Fireman Derek's Key lime pie for $19.95 and a wooden mallet for $4.95 and you've got a complete at home party.

Izzy's Fish & Oyster

Jamie DeRosa's ode to New England lobster shacks takes a South Florida turn with its stone crab specials. Jumbo claws are the specialty of the house, offered at $75 per pound. Each pound yields about two-three claws.

Joe's Stone Crab
For many, Joe's Stone Crab remains the only way to enjoy those sweet claws. Joe's offers medium, select, large, and jumbo claws — all at market price that varies each day. Claws are served with the restaurant's famous mustard sauce and butter. Joe's takes no reservations and you may have to wait hours at the end of the season, but for one last stone crab experience, it's totally worth it. 

Joe's Takeaway
Take home some claws for dinner tonight or dine casually on medium, select, large, or jumbo claws — all served with mustard sauce and butter. An order of four jumbos, for instance, costs $89.95.  If you're planning a trip, Joe's will pack the claws safely for airplane travel for $10.95 additional. Joe's Takeaway also offers a steaming bowl of stone crab bisque for $9.50 — a great way to enjoy a more soulful version of the sweet crab meat. 

Monty's Sunset
Dine on stone crabs overlooking the marina and enjoy claws without breaking the bank. A stone crab platter of six medium claws is $32 and individual medium claws are $6 each ($5 during happy hour). A platter of five large claws is $46 ($10 each), and a platter of four jumbos is $85 ($23 each jumbo claw).

My Ceviche

The fast-casual seafood restaurant, helmed by chef Sam Gorenstein, is having a blowout stone crab claw special for the restaurant's loyal fans. According to partner Roger Duarte (also the founder of George Stone Crab), the local chain will offer medium sized claws for about $3 each this weekend in an attempt to share the last bounty with loyal customers — while the claws last. 

Semilla Eatery and Bar
Semilla Eatery and Bar is celebrating the end of stone crab season with a stone crab festival on Saturday, May 14. Starting at 7 p.m., enjoy claws at only two dollars each.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss