Florida stone crabs are known around the world for their delicious claw meat. But did you know that many of the stone crabs on menus around the country come from right here near the Villages of Citrus Hills?
Whether you prefer them served cold with mustard sauce or warm with drawn butter, the experience of cracking and eating these crab claws is something you will never forget!
About Stone Crabs
One of the most interesting aspects of Florida stone crabs is that they are actually a renewable resource. When the crabs are caught in the traps of professional stone crabbers, the crabbers only take one claw from each crab and the crabs are then returned to the water. As a defense mechanism, stone crabs are able to survive losing a claw and then regenerate that claw in about a year.
The average stone crab has a lifespan of 8-9 years, and they are generally found in sandy ocean bottoms and seagrass beds along Citrus County’s coastline out to a depth of about 20 feet. Large stone crabs can weigh as much as one pound. They feed on oysters, snails, and various other small marine life. Female stone crabs can spawn as many as six times each year, producing up to one million fertilized eggs each time. In addition to humans, stone crabs can also find themselves being hunted by octopuses and grouper.
Catching Stone Crabs
The Florida stone crab harvesting season lasts seven months each year from October 15 through May 15. During this time, many amateur fishermen also hunt for stone crabs.
Amateur crabbers are required to hold a salt water fishing license from the state of Florida,
and they must adhere to certain regulations. They are limited to a total of five traps, and they cannot catch more than one gallon of claws per day. The claws must all be a minimum of 2-3/4 inches.
Eating Stone Crab
While some find enjoyment in catching their own stone crab, many others prefer to let the professionals do the catching and simply focus on the eating. Probably the most popular place for stone crab near the Villages of Citrus Hills is Charlie’s Fish House & Seafood Market in Crystal River.
The restaurant was originally started as an oyster bar by Charlie Kofmehl all the way back in 1960. The oyster bar was an immediate success, serving the best fresh fish and seafood in Citrus County. In the early seventies, Charlie turned the oyster bar over to his two sons, Jimmy and Phil.
After years of continuing to grow the business, Jimmy and Phil decided to build a brand new restaurant in 1990. The new waterfront restaurant had seating for 160 guests compared to seating for 30 in the old oyster bar. In honor of their father, Jimmy and Phil changed the name to Charlie’s Fish House. Since then, the family business has continued to grow and guests can now find a third generation of Kofmehls working there.
The restaurant menu at Charlie’s Fish House features a chilled stone crab appetizer with a mustard dipping sauce. There is also a 1-1/4 pound warm stone crab entree. In addition to stone crab, the menu features plenty of other local seafood favorites like oysters, grouper, shrimp, and scallops. If you prefer to cook your own seafood, Charlie’s Seafood Market sells fresh stone crab claws, as well as fresh caught grouper, mullet, red snapper, and even oysters. They can even ship stone crab to anyone you like across the country!
Charlie’s also sponsors the Stone Crab Jam Music and Food Festival every fall in Crystal River. The festival is a fun-filled day of live music, exciting exhibits, and tons of stone crab.
Whether you are a seafood nut, or just looking for a fun experience to share with your family, catching or eating Florida stone crab is a fantastic option. When you live in the Villages of Citrus Hills, you can choose to catch your own, cook your own, or let a place like Charlie’s take care of everything for you!