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Old 10-21-2007, 06:57 PM   #1
smilinmatt
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Stone Crabs - One Claw or Two?

Anyone know what's best for the overall crab population? Does taking one claw allow more crabs to survive and reproduce? Does taking both claws allow for more healthy, non-harvested crabs to produce even more crabs? I read one study over twenty years ago that seemed to indicated that it didn't matter whether you took one or two, just that you break it right. In holes that have a molted female, it's rare to find a male with only one claw (and I don't think I've ever seen a clawless male with a recently molted female).

Personally, on crabs that have two legal claws, I take the crusher claw. If it either breaks poorly, or it "shocks" the crab (sometimes even a clean break incapacitates the crab), I'll take the second claw - figuring a clawless dead crab is one less crab I'll potentially harm. But I have no ill will towards people that always take all legal claws.

When I go crabbing, more often than not, I get a gallon limit - so the one or two claw harvest does affect the number of overall crabs I encounter. With the crabs I get, I'd guess that my 30 or so claws would come from between 20-25 crabs if I took all legal claws, or obviously 30 claws if I took only a single claw. So is it better to get my limit from 20-25 crabs or 30 crabs?

BTW, a lot of the crabs in our area (Tampa) are already gravid (it's not typical this early, and this probably affects the divers more than the trappers). Remember they're illegal and show some restraint on the gravid females. I know it's not Spearboard members, but there's a lot of gravid females with missing claws right now.
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Old 10-21-2007, 07:40 PM   #2
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Re: Stone Crabs - One Claw or Two?

I would be interested in hearing the responses from others on the board that are more experienced than myself. You would think that taking onlyh one claw would be better. Even in the regs it states that it's legal to take both, but they write it in such a way that that discourage it. I think thats kind of strange that FWC does that. Here is the thing. I just dont understand why they would make it legal, if it were bad for the crab population. In my limited experience with salt water aquariums when a shrim or crab loses a claw it grows back remarkably fast. I have yet to go on my first stone crab adventure, so I will be watching this thread.
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Old 10-21-2007, 09:52 PM   #3
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Re: Stone Crabs - One Claw or Two?

Yes crabs and shrimp grow new claws when they molt the next time. But shrimp molt often, usually every 3-4 weeks, full grown stone crabs only molt 1-2 times a year. Bigger ones even less. When they are small and young, they molt often and grow bigger each time. As they get older they molt less often, as they are getting to the size where they grow much slower. I would say, let the gravid(egg carring females) go with both claws, as first they need them to defend, and second, you would have a hard time snapping the claws off without disturbing the eggs. I feel you can take both claws, and it seems most do. But if you want the biggest claws and there are a lot of crabs, then take the biggest one and leave the other. The biggest problem is people who dont know how to "snap" a claw off. You turn the crab upside down, and put thumbs on inside of claws, so your thumb print is on"fingerprint" on inside of claw. Take 1 claw at a time, by snapping towards you with wrist motion-claw should just snap off at smallest point, with smooth break, no meat hanging out-if any meat is hanging out-you have killed crab-which is illegal and unethical. If you cant do it right-get side big wire cutter pliers-Kliens, and just clip the claws at the narrow spot.
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Old 10-23-2007, 05:29 PM   #4
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Re: Stone Crabs - One Claw or Two?

Come on guys... Somebody has to have an oppinion on this one.
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Old 10-23-2007, 05:35 PM   #5
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Re: Stone Crabs - One Claw or Two?

We always take both. The way it was told to me by an old-timer was if you take both they go and hibernate and grow new ones.

If you take one, they still think they can defend themselves and will most likely die in a battle of stone crab supremacy because of being outnumbered two claws to one.


That's the way it was told to me and I don't have any scientific fact to back it up.

I'll tell you our mortality rate on taking both claws was very very low. Maybe 1 out of 100 when we were going several times a year.
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Old 10-23-2007, 06:23 PM   #6
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Re: Stone Crabs - One Claw or Two?

Not sure it is based on science, but here is the law in SC (for a different perspective):

A stone crab having two claws may be temporarily taken for removal of the larger claw provided the larger
claw is two and three-fourths inches in length or larger measured by a straight line from the elbow to the tip of
the lower immovable claw finger, and the crab must be returned immediately to the water
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Old 10-23-2007, 06:30 PM   #7
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Re: Stone Crabs - One Claw or Two?

Florida Fishing Regulations Link:

http://myfwc.com/marine/recreational/recstonecrab.htm

Can both stone crab claws be harvested?

Both claws of a stone crab may be harvested lawfully if they are of legal size. Although it is currently lawful to harvest both of a stone crab's claws this practice leaves the stone crab with few alternatives to defend itself from predators. Although the crab can still obtain minimal amounts of food with no claws, having one claw (if the other one is harvested) will enable the crab to obtain greater amounts of food in a shorter amount of time. Stone crabs (like other crustaceans) have the ability to grow back their claws, but this process requires a large amount of energy in the form of food. The quicker the crab can obtain the energy required to molt and grow its lost claw, the sooner this renewable delicacy will have another claw to replace the missing claw.
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Old 10-24-2007, 08:26 AM   #8
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Re: Stone Crabs - One Claw or Two?

I was hoping someone had some factual data. Not trying to discount anyone's opinions, but so far that's all we've contributed (myself included).

In the FAQ from FWC, I'm curious where that response came from. Most of their response doesn't correspond to what I've seen:

Defending themselves:
The males do seem to be territorial, you never find two large males in the same area, but I don't think they typically kill each other either if they meet. I've never seen a dead crab around another's den. As far as predators go, I've heard adults don't have predators, but in the wintertime, the spotted eagle rays come into our canal, and I've seen them try to "suck" stone crabs out of their holes. I don't think a large eagle ray would have an issue with stone crabs, claws or no claws.

Feeding:
In my experience both watching them from my dock (they use their legs to open oysters, not their claws) and seeing their dens, I don't think they use their claws much for catching or opening food. The shells around their dens aren't broken, just opened.

The things I agree with are that they probably stop feeding for a while, and it certainly takes more energy to replace two claws than one. When you come up on a crab that's already harvested, they're usually partially buried or further in their den than other crabs, but that seems to apply whether they have one claw or none.

My gut feeling is that if you're going to get a limit, the less crabs harvested (taking all legal claws), the less impact on the overall crab population.
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Old 10-24-2007, 08:32 AM   #9
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Re: Stone Crabs - One Claw or Two?

We take both if they are legal size..............only because they taste so good.
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