How to Remove Stone Crab Claws

How to Remove Stone Crab Claws

Explore America's Campgrounds

Stone crabs are large, smooth-shelled crabs with claws of asymmetrical sizes. One, the crusher or major claw, is significantly larger than the other, known as the pincer or minor claw. Stone crabs are saltwater creatures usually trapped specifically for these large claws, which are considered a delicacy. One or both claws can be harvested and will regenerate several times if the removal is done correctly. Removing the claws is a procedure that must be done carefully.

Items you will need

  • Gloves

  • Pliers

How to Remove Stone Crab Claws

Make sure the claw is of legal size. A legal-size claw in most states must measure at least 2 ¾ inches from the base of the elbow joint to the tip of the smaller pincer. In Texas, the minimum size is 2 ½ inches.

Harvest the claw as soon as possible after the crab is pulled from the water. This keeps the crab from being exposed to the air for too long, and in some states, it is a stipulation of the law.

Pick up the crab gently, wearing gloves to protect your hands from the pincers. Hold the crab near the joint of the claw.

Snap the joint quickly and cleanly with your hands or pliers, taking no part of the body with it. If the de-clawing is done incorrectly, the crab may bleed excessively and be unable to grow a new claw. This will make it a target for predators.

Remove only one claw. This allows the crab time to regenerate its harvested claw while gathering food and fending off predators with the remaining claw. In some states, it is illegal to harvest both of a stone crab's claws. In Florida, for example, both claws can be taken, but in North Carolina and South Carolina, crab fishermen may take only the larger claw.

Return the crab to the water. In most states, it is illegal to harvest the entire crab.


  • Before you go crabbing, check the local regulations for licensing requirements and harvest limit. These laws may vary by state.
  • Check local regulations regarding the method of harvesting and number of traps allowed as well.


  • In most states, crab traps may be pulled only during the day.
  • Stone crabs are harvested from mid-October through mid-May in the ocean waters off some U.S. states, while others allow non-commercial crabbing year-round.
Gone Outdoors