Being raised as a somewhat straightlaced kid, a new girlfriend in high school noted my confusion when on our third date she asked, “Hey, you wanna get stoned?” Ask me that now and instead of confusion you’ll witness a glazing of the eyes, a drooling from the mouth and a glowing smile as if I’m glimpsing the gates of heaven.
Hey. Put me in a plastic bib, stick a wooden hammer in my hand and sit me down at a table with a prodigious plate of a particular type of crab and indeed I am in heaven.
You know exactly what I’m talking about: stone crabs. Platefuls of stone crabs. Pleasure me with a helping of stone crabs and the outside world ceases. I don’t care if I’m in the middle of a nuclear war or making love, just put a feedbag on me and stand back. And on your way out the door, take your dinky bag of snow crab claws and never come back.
Matter of fact, here are things I would do just to sniff the right rear tire of the truck that delivers a restaurant’s stone crabs:
- Slap my momma
- Slap your momma
- Sleep on a bed of poison ivy
- Endure a hurricane, tornado and earthquake – all at the same time
- Let a winning lottery ticket expire
- Decline to accept a Pulitzer Prize for humor (you can see why!)
- Refuse to swap my Hyundai Elantra for a Lamborghini
- Tell my boss I’m overpaid
Furthermore, I yawn come December 25th or January 1st or July 4th and other such menial holidays – no sir/madam, I only worship the annual calendar date of October 15th. That is the day when I can commence to pig out on stone crabs and not stop until May 2nd. And, if such gluttony requires the purchase of a lengthier belt and a larger toilet seat, then those are small prices to pay to sate my stone crab addiction.
This year’s offerings of stone crabs will hopefully be bountiful. Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission has tried to reverse a long-term decline in harvests. However, the FWC did make some changes in that regard for commercial and recreational trappers. Of the new regulations of interest to us diners, the minimum claw size limit will be 2 7/8 inches (an 1/8-inch increase) and the season will now end on May 2nd instead of the traditional May 15th.
For more information on specific harvesting rules, go to MyFWC.com/Marine. You can also keep up to date with saltwater and freshwater fishing regulations on your phone by downloading the Fish Rules app in the App Store or Google Play. Learn more at FishRulesApp.com.
Ordering stone crabs at a restaurant does not require vast intellect. You generally order by the pound and claws come in sizes of small, medium, large, extra large and in some cases jumbo. You may only get four claws if you order large, but you’ll get bigger portions of meat as opposed to having to use a pick to dig out the smaller ones. You also usually get a choice of having them served cold or hot. I like ‘em hot, but that sometimes becomes a problem if they’re heated too long and that can result in the meat sticking to the shells. It’s safer to just order them cold.
Don’t forget sauces. While drawn butter is a favorite, I love to lather each morsel in mustard sauce.
Not all the seafood eateries in Clearwater carry stone crabs all the time. It depends on the success of trappers and the cost is substantial. Before heading out the door, call Frenchy’s, Cooters, Palm Pavilion and other seafood haunts to see what’s available. If you’re expecting a bargain-basement dinner cost-wise, forget it – you’re going to be (ahem!) shelling out the big bucks for stone crabs.
One thing is for sure: You can bet your house that on the evening of October 15th Kelly and I will be bibbed and ready to binge on stone crabs. If you happen to see us, keep arms, legs and small children a goodly distance from our massive maws.