Naples, Fla. – Florida’s annual Stone Crab Season runs from October 15 to May 15 and fans of the tasty crab claws flock to Southwest Florida’s Paradise Coast region to find fresh-from-the-boat claws brought in daily to docks in Naples, Marco Island and Everglades City.
A favorite place to savor a serving of stone crab claws – typically served cold with a tangy mustard dipping sauce – is the waterfront seafood market district along the Barron River in Everglades City, known as the Stone Crab Capital of the World.
Another popular spot is the Old Naples Waterfront on the Gordon River and Naples Bay. Since the 1920s, seafood processing began on the site of Tin City and in the 1940s, just a stone crab claw’s toss across the Gordon River, Combs Fish Company opened its doors where today fishermen still bring in their stone crab claws, which are immediately processed and served fresh next door at Kelly’s Fish House Dining Room.
Southwest Florida crabbers work hard to harvest the delectable stone crab claws during the annual season. Claws harvested locally find their way to local restaurants and are also shipped to other Florida and national locations. During the 2009/2010 season, 2.6 million pounds of stone crab claws were harvested in the state of Florida.
That same season, crabbers in the Paradise Coast region (Collier County) including Naples, Marco Island and Everglades City brought in nearly 608,000 pounds. Stone crabs are the number one commercial fishery in the region. Total statewide stone crab claw landings were worth $23.6 million. Collier County’s landings were worth $5.5 million. Collier accounted for 23% of the state’s total landings, second only to Monroe County (the Florida Keys). Ninety-nine percent of stone crab claws come from Florida.
Claws are typically sold in three sizes, medium with 6 to 7 claws per pound; large with 4 to 5 claws per pound and jumbo with 2 to 3 claws per pound. Stone crab claws typically sell for anywhere between $10 to $30 per pound depending on claw size and supply and demand.
Known as Florida’s renewable seafood resource, only claws of at least 2 ¾ inches are harvested and the crab is returned alive to the Gulf of Mexico, where it regenerates new claws. Stone crabs typically regenerate new claws within one to three years.
This year the Old Naples Waterfront area once again celebrates the opening of the season with the second annual Stone Crab Festival October 29-30. The festival, organized by the Old Naples Waterfront Association, features music, children’s activities, a block party and plenty of specials in the restaurants along Naples Bay. Event venues include Tin City, Naples City Dock at Crayton Cove, Port O’ Call Marina, Bayfront Naples, Naples Bay Resort and Naples Habour Yacht Club.
Most restaurants and seafood markets will include their own version of the traditional stone crab mustard dipping sauce with To Go orders, but it’s always a good plan to whip up an extra batch. Pinchers Crab Shack located at Tin City in Naples owns the Island Crab Company on nearby Pine Island where they process their local catches of fish and shellfish for their Southwest Florida restaurants. They have generously agreed to share their version of the tangy sauce.
Pinchers Stone Crab Sauce Recipe
16 oz container of sour cream
¾ cup mayo
1 oz Dijon mustard
½ oz prepared mustard
Dash of A1 Steak sauce
1 teaspoon heavy cream
Dash of Pepper
Dash of Paprika
Dash of Old Bay seasoning
Mix well together in bowl and let chill for at least an hour. Sauce is good for three days when stored in the refrigerator.
*Recipe courtesy Pinchers Crab Shack
For more information on Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades – Florida’s Paradise Coast, call 1-800-688-3600 for a free visitors guide from within the USA, or dial 1-239-225-1013 from outside the USA; or go to the area’s official visitor information website, www.ParadiseCoast.com Follow the destination on Twitter @ParadiseCoast and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheParadiseCoast.