The Blessing of the Fleet is a welcome tradition in Everglades City. Just before the official opening of Stone Crab season on October 15th, friends and family gather while the fleet parades past them. Rose petals are sprinkled over the boats and all along the dock. The community prays for a safe and bountiful season while each of the crab boats are blessed by local clergy.
After the blessing, everyone enjoys the dockside festivities which include an annual frog jumping contest and the best Guava Cake contest in the Rod and Gun Club. Although traps can be set beginning October 5th, harvesting can’t begin until October 15.
This year’s stone crabbers are faced with some new regulations:
- 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 on board a vessel before they are measured and legal-sized claws are removed.
- The season will now end on May 2.
For recreational crabbers: FWC reminds everyone to register their traps which can be done online at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. 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.
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.
Traps not being fished should be removed from the water to avoid ghost fishing.
Stone crab regulations are the same in state and federal waters, for more information go online to MyFWC.com/Marine.
The entire community wishes the crab fleet a safe and bountiful season. Now that harvesting has begun, we can all enjoy the delectable and delicious delicacy of the crabbers’ labor.