With the fishing industry torn asunder just two weeks before the start of stone crab season last year (due to Hurricane Ian), it’s possible that more than a usual amount of the Gulf-dwelling crustaceans escaped harvest, allowing them and their delectable claws to grow for another year.
Grant Phelan, CEO of Phelan Family Brands, isn’t guaranteeing such a fortuitous outcome, but as a restaurateur with a bevy of establishments at which customers will be clamoring for claws on opening day, he says, “I’m confident we’ll have a good stone crab season. We always do.”
Officially, stone crab season runs October 15 through May 1. During this period, you can take to the sea and harvest your own (know the rules if you do), buy them precooked at a seafood store, or feast upon them at a restaurant, where someone else has done all the work.
In addition to 11 Pinchers locations, four Deep Lagoon Seafood restaurants, The Bay House, Two Fillets, CJ’s on the Bay, and others, Phelan Family Brands now has Pazzo! Cucina Italiana and two Chops City Grill spots to supply. It owns a stake in stone crab supplier Island Crab Co. Between this crabber and others, Phelan believes there should be enough coveted claws to go around.
“Our goal is to have as many restaurants with stone crabs in them as we can on October 15,” he says. “It will be a little bit of a challenge. But it’s a great day. It kicks off the season. The weather starts to turn. I always look forward to it.”
Yet another opportunity to grab some claws will be the thirteenth annual Stone Crab Festival, set for October 27-29, at Tin City in Naples. In addition to the local delicacy, live music and other activities will be available to enjoy.