Commercial stone crab season begins Friday

Left to right Guy Kibbe and Damas Kirk owner of Captain Kirk's Stone Crabse sorts the number one males from the females outside of Captain Kirk's Stone Crabs, which will later be prepared fresh for customers on May 4, 2010.  The majority of Captain Kirk's seafood selection is comprised of local catch but they do receive some specialty items such as oysters from the Louisiana region.  The owner Pat Kirk said that it was to early to predict how prices would be affected but she was positive that prices would eventually go up. Staff/ Manuel Martinez

Photo by MANUEL MARTINEZ // Buy this photo

Left to right Guy Kibbe and Damas Kirk owner of Captain Kirk's Stone Crabse sorts the number one males from the females outside of Captain Kirk's Stone Crabs, which will later be prepared fresh for customers on May 4, 2010. The majority of Captain Kirk's seafood selection is comprised of local catch but they do receive some specialty items such as oysters from the Louisiana region. The owner Pat Kirk said that it was to early to predict how prices would be affected but she was positive that prices would eventually go up. Staff/ Manuel Martinez

— Florida's commercial stone crab fishermen are hoping people will spend money on the delicacy.

They are also hoping for a warm winter as the annual harvest for the claws opens Friday.

Although there was higher demand last season compared to the one before, unusually chilly water temperatures in January and February curtailed supply. During cold periods, crabs tend to be lethargic, not feed and avoid fishermen's traps.

State wildlife officials say that in Florida, the 2008 to 2009 season saw 2.97 million pounds of claws harvested, but last year it was about 2.35 million pounds.

An executive at a Keys fishery says retail market prices will open about 15 percent less than last season's ending prices of about $14 for medium claws, $20 for large and $25 for jumbos.

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