It’s almost time for stone crabs


Above, crabber John Labash paints a line of buoys th
mark some of the roughly 550 stone crab traps he’ll put out this year.


ANNA MARIA – Working under a blue tarp and several large pines for
shade, John Labash staples symmetrical strips of wood to a frame, leaving two
strips farther apart than the others.

Baby stone crabs can escape through the gap, keeping them alive
for another harvest, said the commercial stone crabber, who has been working in
area waters for several years.

Stone crab season begins when the traps are placed in the water on
Oct. 5. Beginning on Oct. 15, the crabs can be harvested, and the colorful
buoys marking the traps will speckle the water until the season ends on May
14.Buoys and traps are assembled by hand, with Styrofoam buoys taking the place
of glass buoys used in the early days of fishing, he said. It takes about 20
minutes to build a trap, then concrete has to be poured in to weigh it down,
and the lid and buoys have to be attached.

Wooden traps are more cost effective than plastic ones if a storm
hits and takes the traps to places unknown, Labash said – a wood trap costs
about $8.50 while a plastic one costs about $15.

“If I lose them, it’s less of a loss,” he said. “For every 400
traps you put out, you lose about 50 a year.”

Last year’s unusual storms cost him about 200 traps. He’s also
using wooden traps because they may attract crabs better than plastic, possibly
due to the wood preservative, he said.

This year, he’ll load up about 550 traps at the boat dock behind
Rotten Ralph’s or trailer them to a boat ramp, then drop them in the water at
Bean Point and down Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. He’ll go out up to
three times a week, checking about 150 of them at a time for crabs, snapping
off claws and tossing the crabs back to regrow more claws, then head to Moore’s
restaurant on Longboat Key to sell his catch.

It’s a tricky business because you never know how much you’re
going to get paid until after you bring the catch into the dock, he said.

“You gotta be nuts to fish for a living,” he said. “And you gotta
be nuts not to fish for a living.”

Published in: on September 9, 2010 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

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