5 Things to Know about Stone Crab Season in the Bradenton Area
Visiting the Bradenton Area is always a treat for seafood lovers. There are so many places to enjoy fresh favorites sustainably caught from the Gulf waters. And come October, things really get exciting with the much-anticipated return of stone crab season. Ask any local and they’ll tell you this sweet and succulent delicacy is not to be missed. Here’s what else you should know about stone crabs.
Florida stone crab season officially kicks off October 15.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulates the commercial harvesting of stone crabs to prevent overfishing. While the season technically runs until May 1, hauls have been known to vary depending on weather and other conditions, so don’t wait to indulge!
Southern Florida stone crabs are one of the most sustainable fisheries in the United States.
That’s because only claws are harvested – not the entire crab. Afterward, the crab is released back into the water, where it will regrow its claw in a year or so. A single stone crab can regenerate 4–5 claws in its lifetime!
What’s more, it’s common for just one claw to be taken even though two are permitted. This gives the crustacean its best chance for survival. Captain Jarrod McKenzie, a commercial and charter fisherman in Cortez, explains, “It’s our role to ensure that generations from now, they can come out and catch the same crabs.” He adds, “the stone crab fishery is 100 percent the most sustainable fishery I’ve ever been a part of.”
The claws are cooked right on the boat or dockside.
To prevent the tender meat from sticking to its shell, claws are boiled as soon as possible – then, plunked in a cold water bath to avoid overcooking. From there, it’s off to the local markets and restaurants, ready to serve the claws to their eager diners.
This is a hands-on meal…and 100% worth a little work.
Stone crabs are best served cold. Most restaurants will give you a small mallet to crack the shell. Tap the claw a few times on both sides to loosen the meat. (Picking up claws to serve at home? Just use the back of a large metal spoon.) Then, dip the meat in the mustard sauce or melted butter and savor your (not so) hard work!
You can find them all around the Bradenton Area.
Can’t wait to celebrate stone crab season? Already dreaming of their sweet, succulent taste? We’ve rounded up some of our favorite spots to find this catch!
If you’re in Cortez…
Talk about the perfect place to enjoy fresh seafood! Cortez is the last remaining fishing village on Florida’s Gulf coast. Check out Swordfish Grill and Tide Tables for well-known waterfront dining destinations, accessible by land or sea. You can also purchase stone crabs to prepare on your own from local markets like Cortez Bait and Seafood and Star Fish Company. (Bonus: Star Fish Company has a casual dockside restaurant, just in case you need a little snack before heading home.)
If you’re on Anna Maria Island…
Blue Marlin is great for those seafood lovers who want to enjoy stone crabs the traditional way or switch things up with the restaurant’s popular Stone Crab Mac & Cheese. Just look for the vibrant blue coastal cottage in the heart of historic Bridge Street.
The Ugly Grouper is a funky outdoor dining spot (no tables inside) that features daily live music and the largest grouper sculpture in the world. Crack some claws – then snap a pic with this eclectic statue while you’re there!
Sister restaurants The Sandbar and Beach House are fantastic spots for fresh stone crab. With prime locations right on the sand offering views of the Gulf of Mexico, we believe toes-in-the-sand dining takes enjoying stone crab to the next level. Don’t forget to explore the rest of their sustainably sourced menus while you’re there!
If you’re on Longboat Key…
Grab some claws at Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub. Boat up to their dock or grab a table under their buttonwood trees for dinner and a view.