Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Here Come the Claws | Fishermen Upbeat after a Decent Haul on Day One

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Here Come the Claws | Fishermen Upbeat after a Decent Haul on Day One

Article excerpt

STONE CRAB SEASON

ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- As Trey Daugherty's 24-foot Anna Maria skiff bounced against wind-whipped waves, 29-year-old Brian Schroder tried to snag a buoyed rope with a long, metal hook attached to a 4-foot- long wooden pole.

The wind would push the boat as it approached the blue and white floating ball, requiring multiple attempts.

Once it was snagged, Schroder and 48-year-old Craig Copeland would take the rope, wrap it around a high pulley and again around a mechanical crank that slowly brought the trap -- or "pot" -- to the surface.

Inside scuttled seven crabs, all but one of which were too small to have their claws harvested.

Another pot saw a better haul -- eight claws.

Daugherty would pick up each stone crab, slide his pinky beneath the joint that connects the crab's claw to its body, roll his finger and press down.

The claws would go into a plastic bucket; the clawless crabs were tossed back into the bay.

Crack, thunk; crack, thunk. Plop.

"Ten down, 250 to go," Daugherty, 27, joked.

Thursday marked the start of Florida's multimillion-dollar stone crab season, which will last until May 15. Commercial and recreational fishermen can harvest as many claws as they can, so long as each claw is at least 2.75 inches long.

The season is important for the restaurant business, seafood lovers and commercial fishing.

The crabs can regenerate the lost limbs in about a year, so there's usually a decent supply.

Anthony Manali, who owns Captain Anthony's Stone Crab Store and has been fishing stone crab for 46 years, said this year is shaping up to be slightly better than the last.

"It looks to be better than start of last two previous years, but there's a hint of red tide, even though red tide doesn't affect crabs or meat," Manali said.

"But basically it looks to be a better start. Now where it goes and ends up is anyone's guess; it's just roll of the dice every year. …

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