GOT CRABS



Bay Scallop Season Opens 6/15 — Fenholloway And Suwannee Rivers  — The 2021 recreational bay scallop season from the Fenholloway River through the Suwannee River opens June 15 and will remain open through Labor Day (Sept. 6, 2021). This includes all state waters in Dixie County and a portion of Taylor County and includes the towns of Keaton Beach and Steinhatchee.

The daily bag limit from June 15-30 in this area is one gallon of whole bay scallops in the shell or one cup shucked per person with a maximum of five gallons whole or two pints (four cups) shucked bay scallop meat per vessel. 

From July 1 through Labor Day in this area, and for the duration of the open season in other areas, regular bag and vessel limits apply. Regular season limits are two gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or 1/2 gallon (four pints) shucked bay scallop meat per vessel. Throughout the season and region-wide, vessel limits do not allow an individual to exceed their personal bag limit.


Other 2021 Season Dates  —  


Additional Bay Scallop Season Dates Are As Follow— 

  • St Joseph Bay/Gulf County:   Dates:  Aug. 16 through Sept 24.  This region includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.
  • Franklin County through northwestern Taylor County Including Carrabelle, Lanark and St. Marks  
    Dates:    July 1 through Sept. 24. This region includes all state waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County to the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County.
  • Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties (including Cedar Key, Crystal River and Homosassa): July 1 through Sept. 24. This region includes all state waters from the mouth of the Suwannee River in Levy County to the Hernando – Pasco County line.
  • Pasco County:  Open for 10 days starting the third Friday in July (July 16-25, 2021). This region includes all state waters south of the Hernando – Pasco county line and north of the Anclote Key Lighthouse, including all waters of the Anclote River.

Other Regulations  —  

  • Scallops may be collected by hand or with a landing or dip net.
  • There is no commercial harvest allowed for bay scallops in Florida.
  • Direct and continuous transit of legally harvested bay scallops is allowed through closed areas. 
  • Boaters may not stop their vessels in waters that are closed to harvest and must proceed directly to the dock or ramp to land scallops in a closed area.
  • For information on bay scallop regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops” under the “Crabs, Lobster and other Shellfish” tab. 


Boater And Scalloper Safety  —  

  • Be safe when diving for scallops. Wear a life jacket when underway and do not drink and boat. 
  • When scalloping in open water, divers should stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or device, and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or device if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. 
  • Boat operators traveling within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or device in open water or within 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel must slow to idle speed. For more information, visit  MyFWC.com/Boating/Regulations and click on “Divers-down Warning Devices.”


Stow It, Don’t Throw It —

  • Don’t forget to stow your trash securely on your vessel so that it doesn’t blow out and do not discard empty scallop shells in the Homosassa or Crystal rivers. 
  • Scallop shells may be discarded in a trash receptacle or in larger bodies of water where they are more likely to disperse.
  • Done for the day? Help FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at svy.mk/bayscallops
  • Harvesters can indicate where they harvested scallops, how many they collected and how long it took to harvest them. Participants can email BayScallops@MyFWC.com to ask questions or send additional information.
  • Learn more about how FWC scientists monitor Florida’s scallops by visiting MyFWC.com/Research and clicking on “Saltwater,” “Bay Scallops” and “Bay Scallop Season and Abundance Survey.”


Stone Crab Season  —  CLOSED

 Ended MAY 2  With Regulation Changes In Place

Several recreational and commercial stone crab regulation changes go into effect in the next few weeks, just in time for the Oct. 15 season start date. Florida’s stone crab fishery has experienced a long-term decline in harvest and is likely undergoing overfishing. FWC staff worked with stakeholders on these changes that are intended to increase the stone crab population and build resiliency in the fishery. 


New Regulations In Effect This Season:

  • 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 onboard a vessel before they are measured and legal-sized claws are removed.
  • The season will now end on May 2 2021  —  All plastic and wood stone crab traps will need to be outfitted with a 2 3/16-inch escape ring before the 2023/2024 season.


Recreational Trap Registration

  • As a reminder, recreational harvesters who are age 16 and older and fish with traps are required to complete an online, no-cost recreational stone crab trap registration and place their registration number on their traps before using them. 
  • To register, visit GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, sign in, click the blue “Purchase a License” button, scroll down to the “Saltwater Permits” section, and select “Recreational Stone Crab Trap Registration.” 
  • Upon completion, each person will receive unique trap registration numbers that must be included on each trap along with the owner’s full name and address. This information must be legible and must be permanently attached to each trap.


Other tips and regulations 

  • 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. Examples of devices that can cause this kind of damage include spears and hooks. 
  • 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. Recreational and commercial traps may be baited and placed in the water Oct. 5, but claws cannot be harvested or possessed until Oct. 15. Traps that are not being fished should be removed from the water to avoid ghost fishing, a process in which marine species get caught in the trap for extended periods of time and are not harvested. 
  • Stone crab regulations are the same in state and federal waters. For more information on harvesting stone crabs for recreation, trap specifications, commercial stone crab regulations and licensing information, go online to MyFWC.com/Marine. 
  • Keep up to date with saltwater and freshwater fishing regulations on your phone by downloading the Fish Rules app in the App Store or Google Play. Learn more at FishRulesApp.com. 


  • Big changes are coming for Florida’s 2020-21 stone crab season, aimed at shoring up declining landings and building the resiliency of one of the state’s most valuable fisheries.
  • The season will be two weeks shorter. Minimum claw size will increase. And beginning in 2023, escape rings will be required on all plastic and wooden stone crab traps.
  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently adopted the new rules in response to a 22 percent decline in landings since the late 1990s, likely a result of overfishing and environmental factors like red tide, hurricane-related trap loss, warming waters, and declining water quality. Meanwhile, dockside prices have skyrocketed.
  • Here’s a rundown of the new rules that the commission developed, after numerous public workshops and in consultation with an industry-led advisory committee:
  • The harvest season will open Oct. 15 as usual but will close on May 1 instead of May 15. State fisheries scientists and some crabbers agree shortening the season will protect egg-bearing females that are now being trapped in increasing numbers in April and May.
  • The minimum claw size limit will be increased by 1/8 inch to 2 7/8 inches.
  • Escape rings measuring at least 2 3/16 inches in diameter will be mandatory before the 2023-24 harvest season in order to select for legal-sized claws and to spare juveniles. 
  • Possession of whole crabs on vessels will be limited to two checker boxes with a total volume of 24 cubic feet.


Not All Agree To The Changes —  “The changes are needed to rebuild the stock and the resiliency,” said Krista Shipley of the state Division of Marine Fisheries Management. “A combination of management changes would have the largest possible benefit.”

But not all stone crabbers agree. Kelly Kirk of the Florida Stone Crabbers Association urged commissioners to hold off on new regulations while the world is still in the grip of the covid-19 health and economic crisis.  “Delay making these decisions until after the pandemic and more data is collected,” Kirk said.

More impassioned pleas spoke to the toll this and other crises has taken on commercial fleets.  “We as commercial fishermen have suffered greatly,” association member Holly Dudley. “We are faced with losing our livelihoods if these regulations are passed. If it isn’t Mother Nature working against us, it’s the state.”

Captain Bill Kelly, executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, said a May 1 closure will benefit the fishery.  “If we shave the back side of the season to May 1, it will give us 360,200 pounds per year back in the stone crab biomass,” Kelly said.

06/04/2021   aljacobsladder.com