The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) needs your input on the recreational stone crab and blue crab fisheries. Share your feedback on potential regulation changes for this fishery.

The FWC is hosting public workshops throughout the state in May to develop a better understanding of the public’s view on management of these fisheries.

Potential regulation changes being discussed include requiring all recreational stone and blue crab traps have a no-cost FWC-issued number affixed to the trap. Several potential regulation changes for the commercial fishery will also be discussed including standardizing management measures across the fisheries.

Workshops will be from 6 to 8 p.m. local time:

  • May 7: Titusville, Brevard County Government Center – North, Brevard Room, 518 S. Palm Ave.
  • May 8: St. Petersburg, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, 100 Eighth Ave. SE.
  • May 9: Crystal River, City Hall Council Chambers, 123 NW Highway 19.
  • May 10: Steinhatchee, Community Center, 1013 Riverside Dr.
  • May 14: Key Colony Beach, City Hall, 600 W. Ocean Dr.
  • May 15: Key West, Monroe County Gato Building, 1100 Simonton St.
  • May 21: Dania Beach, Lions Club, 501 SW 4th Ave.
  • May 22: Fort Myers, Joseph P. D’Alessandro Office Complex, Room 165 C&D, 2295 Victoria Ave.

If you cannot attend an in-person meeting, submit comments online by visiting MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments. Additional details and updates for these meetings will be posted at MyFWC.com/Fishing (click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Rulemaking” and “Workshops.”)

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Blue Crab Recreational Trapping

Gear Requirements:

  • Legal Gear: blue crab trap (max. 5 per person), dip or landing net, drop net, fold up trap with a volume of no more than one cubic foot, hook and line, push scrape, trotline

Trap Specificationsblue crab trap diagram

  • Maximum trap size is 2 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet or a volume of 8 cubic feet
  • Mesh size must be 1 1/2 inches or larger
  • The throat or entrance cannot extend farther than 6 inches into the inside of any trap
  • Must have at least three escape rings, one of each located on a vertical outer surface adjacent to each chamber
  • Escape rings must be larger than 2 3/8 inches
  • The trap must have a degradable panel larger than 3 inches by 6 inches
  • Types of degradable panels include: untreated jute twine, non-coated steel wire measuring 24 gauge or thinner, untreated pine dowel no larger than 2 inches in length by 3/8 inch in diameter or untreated pine slats no thicker than 3/8 inch
  • Harvester name and address must be permanently affixed to the trap and legible
  • The buoy must be no smaller than 6 inches and must be marked with a legible “R” that is at least 2 inches tall

Trapping Regulations

  • Traps must be pulled manually (not by a mechanical trap puller). Any vessel that is rigged with a trap puller will be considered a commercial vessel and the appropriate licenses will be required.
  • Traps must be pulled only during daylight hours.
  • Traps must not be placed in navigational channels of the Intracoastal waterways, or in navigational channels maintained and marked by any county, municipal, state or federal governmental agency.
  • No harvest allowed with any trap out of state waters (seaward of nine nautical miles from shore in the Gulf of Mexico or seaward of three nautical miles from shore in the Atlantic Ocean).

 State Waters Trap Closures:

Sept. 20 – Oct. 4 closed to traps in Gulf state waters beyond 3 miles and in federal waters.

 

Blue Crab Trap Harvest Regional Closed Seasons

In an effort to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from Florida, the FWC has established regional blue crab trap closures. These six regional closures last up to 10 days and prohibit recreational and commercial harvest of blue crabs with traps in these areas. The closures alternate coasts every year with closures on the east coast of Florida occurring during the even numbered years and closures on the west coast occurring on the odd years.

blue crab trap closure zones

Even Year Closures

  • All waters of the St. Johns River system its associated lakes and tributaries from west of the St. Johns River’s intersection with the Intercoastal Canal through and including Lake Helen of Blazes from Jan. 16-25
  • All waters from the Georgia/Florida state line, excluding the St. Johns River system, south through Volusia County from Aug. 20-29
  • All waters of Brevard through Palm Beach counties, excluding the St. Johns River system, from Aug. 10-19
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Blue crab zones west coast

Odd Year Closures

  • All waters of Franklin County to the Florida/Alabama state line however, excluding all waters of the Ochlockonee River and Bay, from Jan. 5-14
  • All waters of Broward through Pasco Counties from July 10-19
  • All waters of Hernando through Wakulla counties including all waters of the Ochlockonee River and Bay from July 20-29

These closed seasons only apply to standard blue crab traps. The harvest of blue crabs by other gear, such as dip nets and fold-up traps, is permitted during the closures. Traps that are attached to private property such as a dock are not included in the closures.

For more information:

Can female blue crabs be harvested?blue crab with eggs

Female blue crabs may be harvested lawfully if they are not bearing eggs. Although it is lawful to keep non-egg bearing female blue crabs, it is a conservation practice to release them unharmed. There has been evidence that the females support the population of the species. Male crabs are capable of mating several times, but females are only able to mate once, after they mature.

If a juvenile female is harvested, there will be no chance that she will be able to reproduce. Additionally, mature females may store sperm in their bodies for several months after mating in order to spawn at a later date. If a mature female is harvested, though she may not exhibit eggs, there is no certainty that she has spawned.

Releasing female blue crabs enhances reproductive capacity and population renewal.

Stone Crab Recreational Trapping

 

SaltMeasureStoneCrab.jpg

 

Stone Crab: Menippe mercenaria or Menippe adina

Florida Regulations:

Regulations Gulf State Waters Atlantic State Waters
Minimum Size Limit 2 3/4-inch claw
Daily Bag Limit 1 gallon of claws per person or 2 gallons per vessel, whichever is less

*Harvest of egg-bearing crabs prohibited

Gear Requirements:

  • Legal Gear: stone crab trap (max. 5 per person), dip or landing net
  • Illegal Gear: Any device that can puncture, crush or injure the crab body, such as spears, grains, grabs, hooks or similar devices.

Trap SpecificationsRecreational stone crab trap

  • Maximum trap size is 24 inches by 24 inches by 24 inches or a volume of 8 cubic feet
  • Traps can be made from either wood, wire or plastic
  • The throat or entrance must be 5 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches
  • NEW: Throat must be 5 1/2 by 3 1/8 inches in Collier, Monroe and Miami-Dade
  • If the throat or entrance is round, it cannot exceed 5 inches in diameter
  • NEW: Round throats prohibited in Collier, Monroe and Miami-Dade counties
  • The trap must have a degradable panel that is 5 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches and is made of cypress or untreated pine slat no thicker than ¾ of an inch
  • Harvester name and address must be permanently affixed and legible
  • The buoy must be no smaller than 6 inches and must be marked with a legible “R” that is at least 2 inches tall.
  • Buoys are not required if trap is fished from a dock.

Trapping Regulations

  • Traps must be pulled manually (not by a trap-puller). Any vessel that is rigged with a trap-puller will be considered a commercial vessel and the appropriate licenses will be required.
  • Traps must be pulled only during daylight hours.
  • Traps must not be placed in navigational channels of the Intracoastal waterways, or in navigational channels maintained and marked by any county, municipal, state or federal governmental agency.

State Waters Harvest Seasons:

Open Oct. 15 – May 15

Traps may be placed in the water 10 days prior to the opening of the season, but once placed, you may not tend to the traps until the start of the season, at which time you may begin harvesting.

Video: How to harvest a stone crab claw

Can both stone crab claws be harvested?

Yes. Both claws of a stone crab may be harvested lawfully if they are of legal size. Stone CrabAlthough it is currently lawful to harvest both of a stone crab’s claws, this practice leaves the stone crab with few alternatives to defend itself from predators.

Although the crab can still obtain minimal amounts of food with no claws, having one claw (if the other one is harvested) will enable the crab to obtain greater amounts of food in a shorter amount of time. Stone crabs (like other crustaceans) have the ability to grow back their claws, but this process requires a large amount of energy in the form of food.

The quicker the crab can obtain the energy required to molt and grow its lost claw, the sooner this renewable delicacy will have another claw to replace the missing one.

 For more information:

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