'Tis the Season for Stone Crabs at Area Seafood Markets, Billy's Stone Crabs

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The official start of stone crab season is October 15, and it will run for the next seven months. Fishermen are hoping for a bounty like last year's, which yielded 2.74 million pounds, up from previous years' catches. 

Early reports from the Gulf show the season is 
off to a slow start. A majority of stone crab claws are harvested off the upper west coast of Florida, though 40 percent are pulled from waters around the Florida Keys. 

Naples News reported that catches ran $11.50 a pound for medium claws and $22 for jumbos last week. Local prices at Fish Peddler East fall at $15 a pound for smalls and $21 for large claws. Compare these prices to the going rate in the '60s, which Joe's Stone Crab lists on its website at 30 cents a dozen, wholesale.

To be legally harvested, claws must be at least 2 3/4 inches. Once claws are twisted off, crabs are thrown back into the water. Stone crab claws regenerate within a year or two. Many harvesters claim one rather than both, to allow crabs to defend themselves during regeneration.

Mike Leffler, general manager of Billy's Stone Crabs in Hollywood, says things are bumpin' for lunch and dinner, with the restaurant averaging 500 covers a day since last week. "Everyone waits until October 16 for season to start. We always open with a bang. We are a very busy restaurant," he said. Leffler prefers tradition when it comes to eating stone crabs: served cold, with a side of mustard.

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