All About Florida Keys Fishing & Key West Fishing

    Florida stone crab, Menippe mercenaria, and gulf stone crab, M. adina
    Stone crabs are found from North Carolina south around peninsular Florida to the Yucatan
    Peninsula and Belize and throughout the Bahamas and Greater Antilles. Adults are benthic
    and live in burrows that can be found from the shoreline out to depths of 200'. In the
    northern and western Gulf of Mexico (northwest Florida to Tamaulipas, Mexico), gulf stone
    crabs replace Florida stone crabs. In addition, there are zones of secondary contact and
    hybridization between species in the gulf between Cedar Key and Cape San Blas and in
    the Atlantic between Cape Canaveral and Charleston, South Carolina (Bert and Harrison
    1988). Differences in the ecology and life history among hybrids, gulf stone crabs, and
    Florida stone crabs suggest the need for different management regimes for each fishery
    (Bert 1992). Florida stone crab growth is highly variable but growth to 0.4” carapace width
    can occur in as little as 6 months to as long as one year (Tweedale et al. 1993). Most
    female Florida stone crabs spawn when they reach 2.25"–2.75" carapace width or
    approximately age 2. Although some spawning occurs all year, Florida stone crabs spawn
    principally from April through September. The stone crab fishery is unusual in that only the
    claws are harvested; the crab is returned to the water alive, ostensibly to generate new
    claws. Approximately 20% of the claws measured in fish houses were regenerated,
    providing evidence that crabs survive the de-clawing process. The operating season of the
    stone crab fishery is from October 15 through May 15. Since the operating season spans
    two calendar years, stone crab landings are reported by the calendar year in which the
    season begins. In calendar year 2006, commercial stone crab landings were 2,418,951
    million pounds of claws. There are no estimates for the size of the recreational fishery.
    Landings were taken almost exclusively (99% by weight) in gulf coast counties. The highest
    landings were reported in Monroe, Collier, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, Hernando, Citrus, Dixie,
    and Wakulla Counties on the gulf coast and in Miami-Dade County on the Atlantic coast of
    Florida in 2006 (Fig. 1). Overall, landings of stone crab increased between 1986 and 1992
    stabilized at about 2.6–3.5 million pounds each year through 2004, and declined to about
    2.3 million pounds in 2005 and 2006 (Fig. 2). The 2006 total landings of stone crab were
    17% lower than the average landings in the previous five years (2001-2005) and were 15%
    lower than the 1982-2006 historical average landings.

    The stone crab fishery is managed in the federal Exclusive Economic Zone under a fishery
    management plan developed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Costello
    et al. 1979). Analysis of the fishery between 1981 and 1985 indicated that the resource was
    fully used at that time and had begun to show a decline in catch per unit effort and landings
    (Phares 1992). Commercial catch per trip on the Atlantic coast increased linearly from
    1993-1997, after which catch rates stabilized at around 40 pounds per trip (Fig. 3). Catch
    rates on the gulf coast increased steadily through 2001, declined in 2002 and 2003, then
    held steady at about 70 pound per trip during 2003-2006. (Fig 4).
Download complete report
(including figures)
Status and Trends 2007 Report
Florida’s Inshore and Nearshore Species
by Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
Upper Keys Fishing
Marine Fisheries News
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