Fresh Stone Crab? How to Tell & Why It's Important

Fresh stone crab is a popular meal with seafood lovers everywhere. Fishing companies can only catch Florida Keys stone crab between October and May each year. Because of this limited stone crab season for harvesting, fisheries sometimes freeze the claws, especially if shipping them long distances.

Unfortunately, freezing stone crab creates an inferior product for consumption.

  • Fresh stone crabs are tender and juicy but never slimy. If your seafood seller tells you it is fresh, but it is actually past the time to eat it, you could become sick.
  • Stone crab lovers need to get their claws from a trustworthy source. We harvest our products ourselves at Billy's Stone Crab, so you know it's always fresh.
  • Florida regulates stone crab fishing practices, limiting the season from October to May.

How Can You Tell If Your Stone Crabs Are Fresh or Frozen? How do you tell if your Crab is Good or Bad?

A Bowl of Stone Crabs

Fresh stone crabs taste much better than their frozen counterparts, which means it is easier for fisheries to sell fresh products. Restaurants expect new claws when they purchase stone crabs for their dining rooms. Sometimes, fishers will try to pass off frozen crabs as fresh to move their product.

You can often tell if the crabs are fresh or frozen by examining the claw's sheen. If it is shiny, then it is likely a fresh Florida stone crab. Another key indicator is the texture of the meat. A fresh-cooked stone crab claw is tender and juicy but not slimy to the touch. Frozen crabs tend to have dry meat that sticks to the shell.

At Billy's Stone Crab, we own and operate more than 40 boats to supply our fish houses with stone crab, fish, and lobster each day. We have two Florida Keys fish houses located in Summerland Key and Marathon, FL, to supply our eatery with the best quality seafood available. Our restaurant managers never have to question the freshness of our crabs, as we are the fisher, producer, and end-user of the product. We know our stone crabs are fresh because we catch them ourselves!

Eating Fresh Stone Crab Meat Can Be Safer

Crabs require careful handling to ensure the food is safe for eating. If the consumers are not going to eat the meat within 3-4 days, producers freeze the claws. However, the longer a product remains frozen, the more likely it is to have opportunities for problems. Potential issues with maintaining the temperature of the crab or cracks in the shells can lead to health issues after consumption.

When stone crabs are harvested, our fishers take the claws off, then return the crab to the water. This process does not harm the animals, and the crabs will regrow their claws in about 12 months. Once we accumulate the claws, we cook them immediately, chill them and then deliver them fresh to our restaurant and market. At Billy's Stone Crab, we guarantee our patrons a fresh stone crab experience every time.

How Much To Buy

A Beautiful Plate of Stone Crab with Dipping Sauce

Both recreational and professional crabbers harvest stone crabs in the Florida Keys. If you plan to purchase stone crabs from our fresh seafood market, consider the amount of meat you require for your meal. Around two and a half pounds of cooked claws provide approximately one pound of succulent crab meat. Buy two to three jumbo stone crab claws per person for enough firm, sweet, delicious meat to make a meal.

Buying, Storage, and Handling

When you visit our fresh seafood market at Billy's in Hollywood, FL, make sure you purchase, handle, and store your selections correctly to ensure your health and safety.

  • Plan to buy your stone crab claws, fish, shrimp, and other seafood directly before you head home to eliminate the possibility of too much heat spoiling your food.
  • We sell our stone crab claws cooked and chilled, but you will need to keep them cold during your trip back to your house.
  • Once you arrive at your destination, store your crabs in the coldest part of your refrigerator at 32 degrees F. If you have a meat keeper drawer, you can put them in there.
  • If you do not intend to eat the crabs within a few days, you may freeze them at zero degrees F. Do not freeze any claws that have cracks.
  • Properly frozen crab claws last up to six months, although the taste quality may deteriorate over time.
  • When it is time to enjoy your frozen stone crab claw meat, thaw them in the refrigerator for 12 to 18 hours. Do not thaw underneath running water. This process will degrade the quality of your crab meat.

When Is Stone Crab Season in Florida?

A Healthy Serving of Stone Crab

Stone crab claws come almost exclusively from Florida and are one of the state's top commercial seafood products. Stone crabs can regenerate lost limbs, making it possible for fishers to harvest the claws without killing the crabs. Florida law regulates many aspects of stone crab fishing practices, such as the time of year it is legal to do so.

Season Limitations For Stone Crabs in Florida

The harvest season is only for a limited time, from October 15th to May 1st, to maintain the crab's population. Fishing companies catch the crabs by using baited traps. In Florida, it is not legal to harvest whole stone crabs. Fishers, instead, remove the claws and then return the crabs to the water. State laws regulate the length of the claws that fisheries can remove, requiring a size of at least 2 and 3/4 inches long. During the selection process the harvesters can take one or both claws but must remove them carefully and correctly for regeneration to occur. It takes stone crabs anywhere from one to three years to regrow their claws, so that it resembles the same size.

Fresh Facts About Stone Crabs

There are probably many things you never knew about stone crabs, like the fact that they can regrow their limbs. Here are some additional facts about these crustaceans:

  • 99% of all stone crab landings are in Florida, making it a valuable aspect of the state's commercial fisheries.
  • Stone crabs eat oysters, other small mollusks, and polychaete worms.
  • Stone crab claws have tremendous crushing force - up to 19,000 pounds per square inch.
  • The crabs use their movable pincer to cut or tear shells and tissue from prey.
  • Octopuses are the primary natural predator of stone crabs. Others include the Florida horse conch, sea turtles, and large fish.
  • Stone crabs are typically right-handed with the larger crusher claw on the right.
  • The females lay up to one million eggs at a time.
  • Females have wider, rounder bodies than males.

Our Stone Crabs Are a Must-Try for Anyone in the Florida Keys

Florida Keys stone crab is a delicious treat for anyone who loves seafood. Stone crab lovers should touch and smell products before purchasing claws to ensure they are safe to eat. We guarantee a fresh product at Billy's Stone Crab by fishing for stone crabs at our fisheries in Marathon and Summerland Key, FL. Whether you shop in our market or eat in our highly acclaimed restaurant, you will enjoy Florida stone crab at its finest. Contact us today online to plan your next stone crab experience, or call (954) 923-2300 to make reservations in our restaurant.

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