Stone Crab

Stone Crab Season Has Finally Arrived

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As we ease into the coming fall and winter seasons here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, one of the many bright spots on the horizon is the return of Stone Crab season in Florida.

Whether you prefer to get out on the water and catch your own or simply buy them from one of our local fresh seafood markets, those delicious stone crab claws are going to be plentiful throughout the rest of this year and the first part of 2020.




About Stone Crab Claws

Unlike so much of the seafood that comes out of the Gulf of Mexico, stone crab claws are actually a renewable resource since they are able to regrow their claws after those claws are harvested by local fishermen.

Stone crabs are able to regenerate their claws over the course of about a year, and with a life expectancy of about 8-9 years, they can produce that delicious claw meat quite a few times in their lives.

Catching Stone Crab Claws

Like any seafood that you might be looking for here in Florida, there are plenty of rules and regulations to be aware of when it comes to stone crab claws. The most important of those is the fact that you can only catch stone crabs when they are in season from October 15 through May 15.

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Any amateurs fishing for stone crab need to obtain a saltwater fishing license and respect limits of just five traps, only collecting one gallon of claws per day, and making sure that all of those claws are at least 2 ¾ inches long.

Of course, if you don’t feel like remembering all of the details, you can always go the charter route and let the captain take care of worrying about the rules, or you can just purchase claws that someone else harvested at one of our many local seafood markets.

Cooking Stone Crab Claws

There are four ways to cook your freshly harvested stone crab claws, and the easiest one is to throw them right into a pot of boiling water. The only tips you need to worry about here are to make sure that you season the water with plenty of salt and be careful not to overcook the claws.

Another simple way to cook your fresh stone crab claws is to put them in a casserole dish with a little bit of water at the bottom and bake them covered in the oven at 350 degrees.

The slightly more complicated way to cook stone crab claws that often produces a better quality meal is to steam them in a basket over a pot of boiling water. It’s really only complicated in that you have to have the right equipment. Once again, you want to be careful not to overcook the claws.

Boiling your stone crab claws should take about 5-10 minutes. For steaming and baking allow 8-10 minutes. You know they’re done when they smell like delicious crab meat. You will also see the color change and brighten.

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In Florida we love to grill all year round, so why not grill our claws. Simply put the claws on a medium heat grill for about 5 minutes for each side. The temperature for grilling should be between 300 and 325 Fahrenheit. When you are grilling, it's advisable to spread olive oil or butter on the claws.

Again, it is crucial to check the crab claws when heating them. Baking and grilling can give out sweet meat, but overheating them will make the meat tough and lose the flavor.

Stone Crab Claw Dippage

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One of the things that make stone crab claws so popular is that there is a wide variety of things you can dip them in. For many home cooks, the best place to start is with drawn butter or cocktail sauce.

Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami is probably the most popular stone crab restaurant in the world, and they are known for serving stone crab claws with a unique mustard dipping sauce. Thanks to websites like Epicurious, you can make a great mustard sauce for your home-cooked stone crab claws using their version of that recipe.

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If you are a stone crab expert looking for some new flavors, this article from News-Press offers some unique twists on dipping sauces like Brandy Mustard Sauce, Jalapeno Honey Sauce, Ginger Scallion Sauce, and Spicy Marinara Sauce.

However you prefer to cook and dip your stone crab claws, there is no denying that they are one of the best treats available throughout the winter here in Florida. Make sure you take the time to enjoy plenty of these local delicacies this year!

Benefits of Living in Citrus County



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Florida is a big state with a wide range of different options that appeal to different people for different reasons.  

But if you are considering relocating to the Sunshine State, Citrus County, which just so happens to be the home of the Villages of Citrus Hills, presents one of the best options you could choose for a number of reasons.  

Residents of Citrus County are in a position to enjoy all of the best aspects of Florida at the same time. They get to experience the famous Florida climate. They are right next to the Gulf Coast, while still not too far from the Atlantic Coast. Great cities like Tampa, Orlando, and Gainesville are just a short drive away, and the entire region is filled with amazing state parks and forests.  

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most significant benefits of living in Citrus County: 

53% Will Never Be Built On 

Many people who relocate to Citrus County don’t realize this fact until after they move here, but more than half of the county is protected areas that will never see any type of construction. This assures residents that Citrus County will never suffer from becoming overbuilt the way other parts of Florida have.  

Ideal Climate 

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The location of Citrus County along the Gulf Coast near the central part of Florida gives it one of the best climates in the entire country. The average high in the summer is in the low 90’s, and the average low in the winter is in the mid-40’s. This moderate climate allows residents to avoid the cold winters without having to endure the 100+ degree summers that residents find in southern Florida and Arizona.  

Low Cost of Living 

Like all Florida residents, those living in Citrus County are not subjected to any state income tax. However, unlike some of the more urban parts of the state, Citrus County residents enjoy a relaxed atmosphere where they don’t have to worry about gouging prices that you might find in many popular tourist areas. The cost of living is very reasonable in Citrus County.  

Parks and Trails 

Whether you are looking for large state parks, great walking trails built from abandoned railroad lines, or small community parks that offer some of the best sunset views you will find anywhere, Citrus County has them all. There are an unbelievable number of different parks and trails throughout the county that all offer their own unique version of nature in Citrus County.  

Day Trips to “Old Florida” Towns 

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Another advantage that the geographic location of Citrus County offers is that residents are within a short drive of quite a few different “Old Florida” towns that all make for great day trips. Many of these small towns have great historic shopping districts, outstanding restaurants, and plenty of history and art museums.  



An Enormous Amount of History 

From the historic sites of the Second Seminole War to the shell mounds of ancient natives, Citrus County is packed with tons of great history and plenty of places to learn all about it. The county also has a long history of producing outstanding thoroughbred horses, including multiple Kentucky Derby champions.  

Gulf Coast Lifestyle 

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Living in Citrus County places you right in the heart of the Gulf Coast Lifestyle. Fishing, boating, and sunbathing at the beach will all be only minutes away. You can also participate in popular local activities like collecting scallops, catching stone crab claws, or swimming with the manatees.  

Close to Tampa and Orlando 

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While the communities of Citrus County are known for their small-town environments, the big-city lifestyle is never very far away with both Tampa and Orlando being only a short drive away. This gives Citrus County residents access to great shopping, cultural events, and professional sports teams that many people like to experience from time to time.  

As you can see, Citrus County is one of the most optimal locations for an active adult lifestyle in Florida. Make sure to include a tour through Citrus County and the Villages of Citrus Hills on your next trip to Florida so that you can see the area for yourself.

Exploring the Big Bend Shellfish Trail

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Seafood is extremely popular across the state of Florida, and shellfish is practically a way of life along the Gulf Coast. Here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, we have the luxury of being located right next to the Big Bend Shellfish Trail, which is where you will find one of the best sources of fresh shellfish in the entire country.  

Whether your preference is for clams, oysters, blue crabs, shrimp, or stone crabs, you can find all of them as you make your way up and down the trail. But with so many options to choose from, figuring out how to best enjoy the trail can be a bit overwhelming.  

Let's take a closer look at what exactly the Big Bend Shellfish Trail has to offer! 

About the Trail 

The Big Bend Shellfish Trail is comprised of the working waterfront communities in Dixie, Levy, Jefferson, and Taylor Counties ranging from Steinhatchee to Yankeetown.  

At one time, this area was better known for its fishing boats, but a 1995 ban on gill net fishing forced the local workers to evolve into shellfish harvesters. Today, you will find large piles of crab traps sitting on docks the entire way up the coast, and it isn't too hard to find the shellfish that make their way into those traps either! 

Types of Shellfish 

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Scallops and Stone Crabs are probably the most sought-after shellfish you will find along the Big Bend Shellfish Trail. Both are limited in terms of fishing season and restricted to certain catch limits, which means that supplies are almost always limited, making them rather expensive.  

On the flip side, you will find all of the clams, shrimp, and blue crabs you could ever want throughout the salty marsh waters of the Big Bend Shellfish Trail.  

Big Bend Destinations 

Because the entire Big Bend Shellfish Trail is located within a short driving distance of the Villages of Citrus Hills, each of the popular stops along the trail would be an excellent day trip for our residents.  

Cedar Key is probably the most popular tourist destination along the trail, and it is also a favorite day trip spot for local residents. In addition to being a beautiful island, this is also a prime spot for oysters and clams, and there are also a number of farm-to-table shellfish restaurants on the island.  

If you are looking for a scalloping adventure, Steinhatchee is the place to find your charter service. And that won't be hard here considering the area is filled with working shellfish boats.  

Another excellent destination for a Big Bend Shellfish Trail day trip is Suwannee, where you will find some of the best stone crab fishing of the entire Gulf Coast. This is also a great place to track down clams, oysters, and blue crabs as well.  

Whether you are looking to get out on the water and catch your own shellfish or stay on dry land and enjoy a fantastic seafood experience at a locally owned restaurant, the Big Bend Shellfish Trail can help you out either way. So if you are passionate about your shellfish, it's time to get out and start exploring the trail!

Great Day Trip: Caladesi Island

While its exact ranking will vary slightly from year-to-year, no one will deny that Caladesi Island is one of the absolute best beaches in America.

This practically untouched state park is located just west of Clearwater, but the only way to get there is to take the 15-20 minute ferry from Honeymoon Island.  Including the ferry ride, Caladesi Island State Park is just under 2 hours away from the Villages of Citrus Hills. 

America’s Best Beach

Once you arrive at Caladesi Island, it is easy to see why it was rated the top beach in America in 2008 and continues to be featured on similar lists year after year. This beautiful white sand beach with crystal clear water remains undeveloped. There are no highways, no traffic, no homes, and no commercial buildings. 

While the island is completely undeveloped, there are still plenty of amenities like a snack stand, umbrellas for rent, and lifeguards on duty when in season. In addition to having great sand, and warm water, the beach is also a great place for shelling because it is not overpopulated with tourists. 

For the Active Beachgoers

The idea of relaxing on an untouched beach sums up a perfect day for many of us, but those who need a little more activity will not be disappointed either. Caladesi Island State Park has three miles of nature trails that weave their way through the island’s interior. 

There is also a three-mile kayak trail through the bay. As you hike or paddle around the island, you are likely to spot some of the local gopher tortoises burrowing in the sand dunes. 

Because of the lack of tourist traffic, local anglers will find great salt-water fishing both from the island’s beaches and the surrounding waters. There are also plenty of picnic areas, and if you have your own boat, you can make a reservation to dock it at the Caladesi Island Marina for an overnight trip. 

Stopping for Dinner

There is a small cafe located right on Caladesi Island, but if you are going to be passing through Clearwater on your way back home, you will definitely want to consider stopping at Cristino’s Coal Oven Pizza. This family-owned pizzeria makes some of the best pizza you will ever try. In addition to their fantastic pizza, Cristino’s also specializes in chicken wings that are smothered in garlic and caramelized onions, homemade lentil soup, and their famous panzerotti!

Another great local restaurant that you might want to try is Eatin’ Fresh, but they are only open for lunch, so you will want to make sure to plan your day accordingly and either get back from the island in time to eat or eat before you head out to the beach. Eatin’ Fresh has a great selection of fresh seafood including some outstanding fish tacos and the original Stone Claw Taco. 

The ideal trip to Caladesi Island probably starts with a light lunch of Stone Claw Tacos at Eatin’ Fresh around 11:00 am. From there, you can head out to Honeymoon Island to catch the ferry to Caladesi Island and spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach or exploring the nature trails. Follow your beach adventure with a coal oven pizza from Cristino’s and you will be both relaxed and well-fed for your trip back home to the Villages of Citrus Hills.