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Snorkeling for Stone Crabs

Old 10-21-2014, 03:51 PM
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Default Snorkeling for Stone Crabs

How do you guys go about it? I've never tried but saw some dudes doing pretty well last week.
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Old 10-21-2014, 04:10 PM
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What do you need to know? Gear is simple- mask, snorkel, gloves, tickle stick and handheld net. Stone crabs are nocturnal, just like lobsters and hide in holes under rocks by day. Look for their "front porch"- a small patch of mud or sand. Sometimes it's difficult to tickle them out. The best place to find them is in grassflats adjacent to a channel, dropoff or oyster bars. Keep them whole until you can measure them- claws must be 2-3/4"or larger and you CAN take both claws as long as both claws meet the minimum.
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Old 10-21-2014, 04:32 PM
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my buddy puts his hand in there with super padded gloves.. hes an idiot though
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Old 10-21-2014, 04:37 PM
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I don't believe you can take both claws, regardless if both meets minimum. Been wrong before.
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Old 10-21-2014, 04:44 PM
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Both claws are OK but I only take one. Welding glove and snatch them by hand. Trick is in recognizing the holes
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Old 10-21-2014, 04:50 PM
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Just be aware a moray eel will take the end of your finger, welding glove and all. I would not just start grabbing in a hole I have not looked in very carefully
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Old 10-21-2014, 05:26 PM
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It's not that hard, but I don't think you will do very well snorkeling unless you have exceptional breath hold capabilities. Generally, I do best around the bridges, the best time is slack high tide, but it's still not pretty. I over weight myself so I will be firmly planted on the bottom and crawl around in 2' of visibility with a high powered light looking under rocks and rubble around the pilings. Don't need welders gloves or anything like that, just have to be aware of the crabs characteristics. When under a rock or in a hole (generally very tight, small holes) the crab will try to dig itself deeper to avoid a potential threat (your hand) and the larger the crab, the better it is for you. When you first spot the crab, they will pull their claws in tight to their body and try digging deeper. I reach in and try to push their claws harder against their body and hold their claws in place with the heel or palm of my hand and get my fingers over their shell. If I can wrap my fingers over the back of their shell, they come out rather easily. Once you get them out, slide your other hand up and grab one claw while working your hand over the other so you are holding the crab by the claws with his body in the middle. Then you just place a sharp object into the joint bythe body and he will release the claw cleanly......do not rip it off or take it in a manner where there are any strings of flesh hanging, if you do, the crab will die.

Cabs claws are kind of like alligator jaws. They don't have any power to push their claws or your hand away from their body, but they are amazingly strong when it comes to pulling towards their body. The larger ones are definitley stronger, but they are slower and much more deliberate in their moves....the smaller ones are fiesty and quicker and are the ones that will get you. You can take both claws legally, but I'm old school and still only take one.
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Old 10-21-2014, 05:29 PM
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You can spot their hole pretty easily on grass flats by the sand they dig up to make it. They usually hang out right at the entrance to the hole so reach in quickly and grab them out, toss into a net quickly. They're pretty slow about pinching so it's not as dangerous as it sounds. A good pair of dive boots is absolutely necessary to walk around and find their holes, sea urchins and coral will destroy your feet otherwise.
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Old 10-21-2014, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by runabout View Post
It's not that hard, but I don't think you will do very well snorkeling unless you have exceptional breath hold capabilities. Generally, I do best around the bridges, the best time is slack high tide, but it's still not pretty. I over weight myself so I will be firmly planted on the bottom and crawl around in 2' of visibility with a high powered light looking under rocks and rubble around the pilings. Don't need welders gloves or anything like that, just have to be aware of the crabs characteristics. When under a rock or in a hole (generally very tight, small holes) the crab will try to dig itself deeper to avoid a potential threat (your hand) and the larger the crab, the better it is for you. When you first spot the crab, they will pull their claws in tight to their body and try digging deeper. I reach in and try to push their claws harder against their body and hold their claws in place with the heel or palm of my hand and get my fingers over their shell. If I can wrap my fingers over the back of their shell, they come out rather easily. Once you get them out, slide your other hand up and grab one claw while working your hand over the other so you are holding the crab by the claws with his body in the middle. Then you just place a sharp object into the joint bythe body and he will release the claw cleanly......do not rip it off or take it in a manner where there are any strings of flesh hanging, if you do, the crab will die.

Cabs claws are kind of like alligator jaws. They don't have any power to push their claws or your hand away from their body, but they are amazingly strong when it comes to pulling towards their body. The larger ones are definitley stronger, but they are slower and much more deliberate in their moves....the smaller ones are fiesty and quicker and are the ones that will get you. You can take both claws legally, but I'm old school and still only take one.
Excellent description and I agree doing it snorkeling will be very difficult. Not impossible but very difficult. Its all worth it when your enjoying those claws. Personally my favorite seafood period.
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Old 10-21-2014, 08:34 PM
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What do you guys do about coking the claws? My understanding is that the commercial guys do it right away, even on the boat and then ice them.
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Old 10-22-2014, 12:17 AM
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Yes, cook them in boiling water and then throw them in an ice bath to chill them . If you don't cook them and then ice them right away, the meat sticks to the insides of the shell and it's a mess........
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Old 10-22-2014, 03:24 AM
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I've only done it with scuba, don't think it would be that successful with snorkel. The trick is not to hesitate. Once you see the crab it's one swift motion one hand grab them right over the front, thumb under and fingers over. Then pull them out far and let them go. They will go into defense mode with both claws outreached like they want to fight! Then, again, one swift motion with both hands you grab one claw with each hand. I have always just taken one claw. When I used to do a lot of diving, I had a buddy that would follow behind me and he would grab the other claw! Took me a while to figure out he was doing it!
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Old 10-22-2014, 04:28 AM
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Free dive for them all the time without gloves. Easiest way is to stick hand in hole with lightening speed and surprise them so they don't have time to react, once out of hole you can net them or grab them. Sounds dangerous but since they are buried in sand they can't extend arms and claws out to snap. Counterintuitive but once u go in and rake them out you won't screw around with trying to tickle them out.
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Old 10-22-2014, 06:09 AM
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Originally Posted by chickenhawk 26 View Post
I don't believe you can take both claws, regardless if both meets minimum. Been wrong before.
In Florida, you are allowed to take both claws if they are legal size. You may not take either claw from an egg bearing female. The most important part however is to remove the claws correctly without tearing the socket. If the claw does not come off with a clean break then the crab will die (bleed to death). Removing the claws takes practice to do it correctly, but think of it this way:

If you're a fisherman, everything you keep for the table, fish, lobster, shrimp, squid, snails, blue crabs....100% of it is killed for the table. I of course have no issue with harvesting from the ocean. Stone crabs are the ONLY resource where the live animal is returned and the edible portion is kept.

If you can think of another fishery where this is the standard, please name it. I've never thought of one.

It's a great fishery, numbers are pretty low this season so far though.
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Old 10-22-2014, 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by runabout View Post
Yes, cook them in boiling water and then throw them in an ice bath to chill them . If you don't cook them and then ice them right away, the meat sticks to the insides of the shell and it's a mess........
You don't have to cook them right away, but you do not want to ice them right away. Put them in a bucket/cooler of the water you are getting them in.
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Old 10-22-2014, 06:53 AM
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Boil for 8 minutes, then put them in an ice bath. Add a splash of white vinegar and salt to the water you boil them in. The vinegar allows the flesh to come out of the shell easier. The salt maintains the level of salt in the meat vs. boiling it out. Results in a better end product. If you only get a few, and want to collect them, they do freeze nicely.

After pulling claws a few times, I can't imagine grabbing them while snorkeling. Maybe some day though!
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Old 10-22-2014, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by schoolsout1 View Post
You don't have to cook them right away, but you do not want to ice them right away. Put them in a bucket/cooler of the water you are getting them in.
True, you don't have to cook them the minute they are taken, but they need to be cooked in a relatively short time. For quality purposes, you can't take them, throw them in a freezer bag and pull them out of the freezer next month and cook them like you do with fish. They must be cooked within hours of being taken, then they can be frozen and eaten at a later date..
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Old 10-22-2014, 11:39 AM
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Is there a trick to getting the crab to release its claw? Smaller crabs often will let the claw go as I'm grabbing them but the larger ones won't release and we usually use a pair of garden shears to cut it off at the joint.
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Old 10-22-2014, 12:10 PM
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Please don't use shears, you're very likely killing the crab. Here's a video on how to remove the claws, it's pretty good, could be better, but you get the idea.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTgX...8pQUJOJRs5Hewx
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Old 10-22-2014, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by chickenhawk 26 View Post
I don't believe you can take both claws, regardless if both meets minimum. Been wrong before.

One claw in South Carolina.


Both claws in FL.
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