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Longboat Key Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 5 years ago

Temperatures, octopi net stone-crab season lull

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Craving stone crabs served with garlic butter or sweet mustard sauce?

You may have to wait a few weeks, despite the fact that we’re two months into stone-crab season.

That’s because stone crabbers have been coming up short over the past two or three weeks due to a number of factors, including the lack of cold fronts and a surging population of the octopus, a natural predator of stone crabs.

Alan Moore, co-owner of Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant & Marine, estimated that the number of stone crabs caught in his restaurant’s traps has fallen by 70% in recent weeks.

According to Moore, the season got off to a strong start two months ago. But, without cold fronts and winds, which stir up the waters, stone crabs tend to burrow in the sand. Stone crabs also tend to bury themselves when the moon is high and shines brightly, he said.

Then, there’s the threat posed by the growing population of octopus, which can often reach stone crabs in traps by sticking their tentacles inside, allowing them easier access than other predators.

On the evening of Friday, Dec. 14, Dry Dock Restaurant Waterfront Grill owner Eric Hammersand said that he hadn’t been able to find fresh stone crab all day.

He expected to run out of stone crab within an hour or two.

“It’s gonna be fairly short for the next couple of weeks,” he said.

Moore said that ups and downs are common during stone-crab season.

“This is unusual because it’s happening up and down the state,” he said. “It’s industry-wide right now.”

Moore said that his restaurant had enough stone crab stored to carry it through the next couple of weeks and hopes to hold prices steady through Christmas.

“What we need is a good cold front,” Moore said. “It’ll pick up, but we’re just in one of those lulls.”

Stone-crab season runs from Oct. 15 through May 15.

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