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Captain's corner

By CHAD CARNEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 15, 2000


Stone crab claws are the next best thing to sex!" exclaimed one of my advanced students as we prepared to dive under the St. Pete Pier.

Moments later, we were immersed in the shadowy gloom with 4-foot visibility. But that's all you need to locate a stone crab's hole, grab him, pop off a claw and put him back. Simple? Not really. Poor visibility, strong current, boats and debris make diving hazardous around bridges, jetties and patch reefs. Stone crab season opens today and runs through May 15.

Stone crabs look like Mike Tyson compared to other crabs' Pee-Wee Herman-like appearance. Enough power in that claw to take off a finger? The claw is not designed to cut or apply all its pressure on the point, so it's going to hurt but not maim. Carry a light to look in holes and a crow bar to lift rocks, and pull yourself across the bottom. Crawl from row to row of pilings. A compass helps to keep from getting lost.

Grab the whole crab quickly and it will usually fold in its claws. Take only the larger of the two claws -- the crab will regenerate a new claw. When extended, the claw will detach with little downward pressure. Put the crab back in the hole so it will be protected from sheepshead and other predators. The limit per diver is one gallon of claws or two gallons per boat, whichever is less, and they must be 23/4 inches across the lower fixed part of the claw, not counting the knuckles.

Keep them in salt water. To keep them from sticking to the shells, boil them immediately until they turn red.

- Chad Carney teaches scuba and spearfishing. Call (727) 423-7775 or e-mail at cubera@ij.net.

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