Stone Crab Diving
Stone Crab Diving Indian River Lagoon
By: James Smith
I’ve been stone crab diving the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) – Florida since I was a young boy when my father first brought me along power lines poles and taught me the methods of stone crab diving. Since that first day I was forever hooked. He taught me the methods of searching and grabbing; and also for handling and releasing the crab. Stone crabs are one of the most sustainable species in the IRL. You can harvest the legal claws off the crab’s, which are removed by carefully grabbing from the rear and twisting. The crab is returned to the water and the claw regenerates between 12 to 24 months before reaching legal size again.
Throughout my years of diving for stone crab I have watched the water quality in the lagoon diminish from increased runoff and other environmental effects. Before all the development began around the lagoon the water was so clear you could often see the bottom of the lagoon. Due to poor water quality and zero visibility, stone crab diving became a fading tradition.
Luckily the cold spell and lack of rain had giving us a chance to explore some old spots and finally put together a video of stone crabbing! The water was freezing with the water temperature in the fifties due to three straight nights of near freezing air temperatures. The cold temperatures killed the phytoplankton and cleared up the water giving us over 10 feet of visibility in the lagoon! I was amazed at all the sheepshead’s that schooled up around every piling. It was definitely the most I’ve ever seen under the causeway. After searching pilings and rocks I came upon a nice harvestable stone crab with two keeper claws that each measured over 2.75 inches.
Each stone crab is unique and has its own technique of defense. Some pinch some hide and some run. Either way getting pinched is the worst outcome. The brute strength of the large crusher claws is enormous delivering as much as 19000 pounds per square inch of claw. Despite the risk I ended up catching lots of stone crabs, letting go any that were just keeper to ensure there are plenty for later in the season, as long as the visibility holds up. I finished the dive with 24 claws that filled a gallon bag, which is the legal limit in Florida.
This day turned out to be a great success and hopefully will raise awareness of the beauties of the Indian River Lagoon System. So get out there and enjoy all the wonderful activities the Indian River Lagoon has to offer!!
Filmed and edited by Pure Ocean Productions