SARASOTA COUNTY - Just before tourist season official begins, another season is kicking off on the Suncoast. Stone crab season has many local restaurants and visitors very excited.
It officially began Monday, and local crabbers say so far, so good. In the first two days, crabbers have already caught nearly three times the amount of crabs they did at this time last year.
Local restaurant owners tell ABC 7 that it's a good thing, because they've already got customers coming in wanting more.
Some describe stone crabs as cross between a "regular" crab and a lobster, and they say they're best served cold with mustard sauce or butter.
Many seafood lovers just can't get enough. “We were here on Monday, and we had the first crabs that came out of the water. They were excellent, so we decided to come out here again,” said David McClaren.
At Moore's Stone Crab restaurant on Longboat Key, Alan Moore says stone crabs have been his family’s bread and butter for many, many years. “My grandfather was crabbing in the early 30's out of the city of Cortez, and we ran stone crabs up and down the state of Florida.”
Now, the family has several crabbers who go out each day during season, bringing back fresh stone crabs to the docks at the restaurant. “You just never know where the crabs are going to be. If they caught a hundred over in this area last week, and they didn't catch any here last week, then it may switch. They're nomadic, they crawl they move.”
On Monday, the first day of season, Moore says crabbers brought back over 800 pounds of crab, compared to only 40 pounds last year.
At Captain Eddie's seafood restaurant in Nokomis, co-owner Jane Corliss says it's the same story. “Thus far, the first two pulls our stone crabbers have done have been probably triple of what he had last year at this same time. It's started out really good.”
Corliss says her crabber has even had to make special trips back to meet the demand. “We have people who say ‘I'll be back in for lunch’, so he comes back in so we can get them ready.”
And from now until May 15th, both restaurant owners say they'll enjoy everything the stone crab season has to offer. “I have customers, hundreds of customers, who after May 15th when the season ends, say ‘we'll see ya next October 15th’, and we won't see them. And of course Monday, Tuesday they flooded the gates,” says Moore.
He says prices are a little high for stone crabs right now. However, that's normal for the first week to ten days of the season before prices regulate.