Stone crabs are big business when they're here

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VENICE, FL - It's a day many have been waiting for: the start of stone crab season. After a dismal season last year the industry and consumers are hoping hauls will be heftier this year.

Those like Tim -- or as his friends call him, "Snuff" -- hope it is better. "It's marked on the calendar."

Just hours after the season opens he's already digging or clawing in. "They are delectable. The creature still lives, instead of dies. Better than lobster."

The crustaceans are coming in from places like the A.P. Fish Company in Bradenton and cracked up at places like Captain Eddie's Seafood in Nokomis.

"I've been doing this 30 years. I still get excited." Owner Jane Corliss is looking for a better season this year after many with traps pulled up early last year. "The first pulls the first couple months there were a lot of stone crabs last year. Then it just fizzled out to nothing."

Some blamed weather, red tide, even an influx of octopus munching on the crabs. "Every three, sometimes seven years it will be a good year and then it will just trickle down. Nobody really knows."

The lower number of crabs means a higher price. Starting out this year here at between $25 and $37 a pound depending on the size. "Hopefully this year it will be good all year long. You just never know."

What those like Snuff know is they are here now. "Been waiting a long time for them."

You still have some time. Stone crab season goes until May 15th.

By the way it is legal to harvest both claws from the stone crab. However, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recommends only taking one. They say it helps the crab to get food quicker and get more energy to grow back the harvested claw.