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Stone Crab in St. Petersburg or Tampa in May

I'm going to be in St. Pete at the very end of stone crab season. In my dream scenario, there are places that take advantage of the end of the season by offering all you can eat stone crab deals and do a good job preparing them.

Has anyone seen such a place in the past? If not, what places do the best job with stone crabs at the most reasonable prices. Restaurant ambiance is totally immaterial. All we care about is a big pile of claws.

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  1. I hate to burst your bubble, but I'm in Clearwater right now and evidently no one has it because it's the end of the season (??) and almost impossible to get :(

    1. If you do find any in May, don't buy them! They will have been frozen for quite awhile, and that totally ruins them IMO.

      I haven't seen an all-you-can-eat stone crab deal since Beach Nutts offered it one night a week back in the early 90s.

      7 Replies
      1. re: sweet_polly

        It was explained to me at Cox recently that the cold has been the main culprit in the bad stone crab season. Apparently, when the crabs get cold, the meat sticks to the shell and it makes them hard to eat. The crabbers stop crabbing because they know the seafood shops won't buy them. I was told that if it warms up (which it has) things could recover somewhat.

        1. re: sweet_polly

          Sorry, but that is just not true. Stone crab season ends May 15th and, weather permitting, you can get good fresh stone crab anytime from Oct 15 thru May 15. The claws this season have been larger than usual, and the stormier the weather the more they move, the bigger the catch. The price does fluctuate with the yield. Call around for prices and availability - it changes by the day/week.

          The meat sticks to the shell if they've been overcooked, or frozen for too long. By law, they must be cooked before being sold by the fisherman, so it's best to eat them without re-heating - room temperature or chilled.

          But I too have never seen an all-you-can-eat.

          1. re: joan

            Joan, thank you for clearing that up. I am sorry to hear that I got fed a line at Cox. Oh well. I know where I can go in Pinellas if I want good fish and good info. Thanks for setting things straight. I always try to be careful knowing that people's livelihood is on the line.

            1. re: CFishman

              Odd that Cox fed you a line. I thought they were family owned and operated. Maybe someone was ill informed. The story I heard was that the SC were not moving this year because no big storms. Not crawling into traps, etc..

              1. re: rhnault

                Yeah, my uncle says that they generally caught more crabs in the shallow waters after active hurricane seasons, than the inactive ones.

                My cousin and I have been running a couple of strings of crab traps this season, but we've only caught a few keepers so far. Whenever we spoke with some of the other non-commercial fishermen, they didn't seem to be pulling in very many either.

                We've caught our fair share of blues, but that's pretty much it.

            2. re: joan

              Yes...thank you! I don't know why I had it in my head that stone crab season ended in mid-April. Maybe because their often so hard to find at the end of the season. :)

              1. re: joan

                If you are willing to travel to orlando, johnnies hideaway has them on Monday nights. Auce med claws, I am at the table eating them as i type. (thanks yosemite) A great deal at 43 bucks given the price most restaurants are charging these.days. the claws are decent with about a third Of them sticking to the shells.

            3. Does Publix still have stone crabs? IMO it's the best deal out there on those bad boys. They crack them for you and you are good to go!

              3 Replies
              1. re: Miss E

                I have not seen true stone crabs at my local Publix. Only "jonah crab" which look similar but are definitely not the same. But I realize not all Publix carry the same stock, so check the shell texture to be sure.

                Jonah: (note the bumpy shell)
                http://www.kentislandcrab.com/catalog...

                Stone: (see the smooth shell
                )http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3390/3...

                1. re: Miss E

                  they don't crack them for me. first time i ever bought them, had heard so much about them, took 'em home, ended up throwing out the whole batch since i couldn't get into them, even with banging with a hammer. next time i asked the person behind the fish counter at my local Publix, and she looked at me as if i had 2 heads. nope, they don't crack them for you at MY Publix. :( so i have only had stone crab claws once in my life, about 2 years ago, at Middle Ground. they were killer.

                  1. Stone crab is a great choice for sustainable seafood. Joan is right about the season and as they are cooked on the boat not much is needed for preparation except a good mallet. I recommend PJ's on St Pete Beach. Had a late lunch there the other day and enjoyed the stone crab and oysters for a fair price. I have only seen AUCE specials that offer stone crabs from California which is a completely different flavor.

                    I would also try a fish market like sav on seafood just call around and see what they have available that day. I don't see any reason to pay more for jumbo claws. I have tried all sizes and feel the only difference is in the cost per pound. Enjoy!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: floridaeater

                      So what is the reason for not being able to get them now? I expected to be able to eat my fill while I was here and no one has them in the Clearwater area :(

                      1. re: ijack

                        God and serendipity are the reasons!

                        Did you try Ward's seafood? they usually have "everything"! Anyway, keep trying. The crabbers don't usually check their traps every day, so three days can make a difference. there was a stormy sea last week, we had them on the weekend. But they do sell out... If you get a yes, jump in the car and go get em.

                    2. Quasi-related, but I got a couple reeeeally tasty dungeoness crabs from whole foods on sale for $7.99/lb recently. A whole ton of work to get all the meat out but worth it in the end :)

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: askdrtodd

                        YOU ate AT HOME???? i don't believe it.

                            1. re: Manderley

                              yep. oh also, thanks to a dungeoness crab, I finally lost the whole Todd vs. Garbage Disposal game I've been playing for a few years now. That sucked.

                      2. There is a new seafood market in downtown Dunedin (I forget the name already), but they were advertising fresh stone crab today.