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Stone crabbing beneath the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

By TERRY TOMALIN, Times Outdoors Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 5, 2000


The good thing about scuba diving for stone crabs around the Sunshine Skyway is that there are plenty of stone crabs and very few divers. That's because you can't see more than 3 feet in front of you, there's old fishing line everywhere, the current rips like a river in flood and there are sharks -- big sharks.

But that shouldn't stop you from heading out to the big bridge across the bay and its approaches on Oct. 15 when stone crab season opens.

The crustacean has the enviable distinction of being the only commercially harvested marine animal in the nation that doesn't have to die to provide food for humans. When a commercial fisherman, scuba diver or recreational stone crab hunter grabs the tasty claw, the animal simply lets go.

The large claw also is the stone crab's principal weapon. A fully developed crab is strong enough to crush clams and oysters, so it easily can leave a human finger bruised, if not broken.

So you have to be careful. Nobody wants to break a finger trying to bring home dinner. Then again, you don't want to injure the stone crab unnecessarily. State law requires the crab must be returned to the water alive after the claw has been removed.

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