"Get Stoned" is the sister series to "Lobster Season." Both are ongoing projects that I am aiming to one day combine into a cookbook accompanied by studio-lit and styled recipes. As noted in "Lobster Season," my dad is extremely passionate about spending time in and on the water, so in addition to lobstering it is no surprise this includes stone crabbing. A little bit more of a complicated process, and one not for the faint of heart. Stone crabbers are in it for the long haul, beyond the stench and grime that comes with the territory of setting out traps. It is all in hopes of potentially luring a stone crab into their trap. A process so stinky my brother, Kenny, was once quoted saying he would rather go to prison than set out traps with my dad. If you do not yet understand why he so profusely detests this process, it is because when it comes to stone crab, and with any bottom feeder, the stinkier the bait the better. So, what does my dad use for bait to create a stench stinky enough to make a grown man cry and to lure these creatures into his deluxe crab hotels for a stay? Any kind of cheap meat parts he can get his hands on, such as chicken parts or iguana parts (an evasive species to Florida that per FWC it is legal to kill on private property humanely).
Stone crab season in Florida runs from October 15 to May 1. Commercial stone crabbers can put out lines of up to one hundred traps, while recreational stone crabbers are limited to up to five traps per person with a recreational saltwater fishing license. For a claw to legally be harvested from a crab, it must measure 2.875 inches, and like lobstering there is a special gauge used to measure. After multiple seasonal molts, a stone crab can grow its claw back in a year; however, it can take around three years for the crab to grow a claw at least 95 percent of the size of the original claw lost. A stone crab can survive without both claws, it will go from predator to scavenger. Though not legally required, a common practice by my father is to only take one claw from a stone crab out of courtesy and aim to be humane, this is unless it is a crab that already arrived in his trap with one previously harvested claw by another stone crabber. When a claw is harvested, it is also important to note it should be kept in only a slightly chilled environment that is not directly on ice, or else the crab meat will stick to the claw when it comes time to eat.
When harvesting a claw it is important to detach it properly so that a crab does not also lose its muscles, bleed out, and die when it should have been able to have a reasonable chance at continuing with its life. As with capturing lobsters, it is illegal to harvest claws from crabs with eggs. A crab with eggs should be immediately placed back in the water, as eggs can be easily harmed from even short periods of air exposure. I wish everyone could at least once in their lifetime smell weeks-old baited crab traps like these just to get a full picture of the kind of devotion it takes for crabbers to set out traps, and for me as a photographer to be willing to endure prolonged murder to my nostrils and the ongoing intensified urge to vomit.