Stone crab harvesting season officially started on October 15. But this year, the long, intense red tide bloom got to some of these little creatures. Stone crabs and other crab species washed ashore dead in late summer.
So now the question is — are these guys safe to eat after all the problems Southwest Florida has had with red tide?
“The people are scared you know saying red tide, can we eat the product. It’s live, living, walking in the ocean. The ocean’s cleared up now. You know it’s very edible,” Jeff Haugland, part Owner at Island Crab Co., said.
Because the stone crab season just started, there’s no way to know what kind of catch the crabbers will have this year. The season lasts until the middle of May.
Red tide wasn’t the only thing on the crabber’s mind this season.
“With that hurricane coming, right up the Gulf. We told a lot of our crabbers, we were cautious, we didn’t put traps out ahead of that hurricane because we didn’t want to lose them,” Haugland said. “So we don’t have a real good soak time. So it’s really hard to tell what we’re catching and what we could catch.”
Just because Hurricane Michael didn’t hit Southwest Florida hard, crabbers didn’t take any chances.
Haugland said they usually put traps out on October 5, but waited until Michael was far away from the area before dropping them on the 10th and 11th of the month.
If this year’s catch ends up not being as good as year’s past, the stone crab that you buy could be more expensive than usual.