Stone Crab Season Starts Oct. 15 

With Regulation Changes In Place

For immediate release: Oct. 5, 2020   Media contact: Amanda Nalley, 850-404-6100
or #Florida #fishing 

Several recreational and commercial stone crab regulation changes go into effect in the next few weeks, just in time for the Oct. 15 season start date. 

Florida’s stone crab fishery has experienced a long-term decline in harvest and is likely undergoing overfishing. FWC staff worked with stakeholders on these changes that are intended to increase the stone crab population and build resiliency in the fishery. 

New regulations in effect this season:

  • The minimum claw size limit will be 2 7/8 inches (an 1/8 inch increase).
  • Possession of whole stone crabs on the water will be limited to two checker boxes, each up to 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet OR a total volume of 24 cubic feet. Checker boxes are used to hold crabs onboard a vessel before they are measured and legal-sized claws are removed.
  • The season will now end on May 2 2021
  • All plastic and wood stone crab traps will need to be outfitted with a 2 3/16-inch escape ring before the 2023/2024 season.

Recreational Trap Registration

  • As a reminder, recreational harvesters who are age 16 and older and fish with traps are required to complete an online, no-cost recreational stone crab trap registration and place their registration number on their traps before using them. 

  • To register, visit, sign in, click the blue “Purchase a License” button, scroll down to the “Saltwater Permits” section, and select “Recreational Stone Crab Trap Registration.” 

  • Upon completion, each person will receive unique trap registration numbers that must be included on each trap along with the owner’s full name and address. This information must be legible and must be permanently attached to each trap.

Other tips and regulations 

  • Care should be taken when removing the claws so as to not permanently injure the crab. 

  • Claws may not be taken from egg-bearing stone crabs. Stone crabs may not be harvested with any device that can puncture, crush or injure a crab’s body. Examples of devices that can cause this kind of damage include spears and hooks. 

  • Recreational harvesters may take a daily bag limit of 1 gallon of claws per person or 2 gallons per vessel, whichever is less, and may use up to five stone crab traps per person. 

  • Recreational and commercial traps may be baited and placed in the water Oct. 5, but claws cannot be harvested or possessed until Oct. 15. Traps that are not being fished should be removed from the water to avoid ghost fishing, a process in which marine species get caught in the trap for extended periods of time and are not harvested. 

  • Stone crab regulations are the same in state and federal waters. 

  • For more information on harvesting stone crabs for recreation, trap specifications, commercial stone crab regulations and licensing information, go online to 

  • 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 

  • Big changes are coming for Florida’s 2020-21 stone crab season, aimed at shoring up declining landings and building the resiliency of one of the state’s most valuable fisheries.

  • The season will be two weeks shorter. Minimum claw size will increase. And beginning in 2023, escape rings will be required on all plastic and wooden stone crab traps.

  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently adopted the new rules in response to a 22 percent decline in landings since the late 1990s, likely a result of overfishing and environmental factors like red tide, hurricane-related trap loss, warming waters, and declining water quality. Meanwhile, dockside prices have skyrocketed.

  • Here’s a rundown of the new rules that the commission developed, after numerous public workshops and in consultation with an industry-led advisory committee:

  • • The harvest season will open Oct. 15 as usual but will close on May 1 instead of May 15. State fisheries scientists and some crabbers agree shortening the season will protect egg-bearing females that are now being trapped in increasing numbers in April and May.

• The minimum claw size limit will be increased by 1/8 inch to 2 7/8 inches.

• Escape rings measuring at least 2 3/16 inches in diameter will be mandatory before the 2023-24 harvest season in order to select for legal-sized claws and to spare juveniles. 

• Possession of whole crabs on vessels will be limited to two checker boxes with a total volume of 24 cubic feet.

Not All Agree To The Changes —  “The changes are needed to rebuild the stock and the resiliency,” said Krista Shipley of the state Division of Marine Fisheries Management. “A combination of management changes would have the largest possible benefit.”

But not all stone crabbers agree. Kelly Kirk of the Florida Stone Crabbers Association urged commissioners to hold off on new regulations while the world is still in the grip of the covid-19 health and economic crisis.  “Delay making these decisions until after the pandemic and more data is collected,” Kirk said.

More impassioned pleas spoke to the toll this and other crises has taken on commercial fleets.  “We as commercial fishermen have suffered greatly,” association member Holly Dudley. “We are faced with losing our livelihoods if these regulations are passed. If it isn’t Mother Nature working against us, it’s the state.”

Captain Bill Kelly, executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, said a May 1 closure will benefit the fishery.  “If we shave the back side of the season to May 1, it will give us 360,200 pounds per year back in the stone crab biomass,” Kelly said.