Stone crab season helping fishermen recover from Ian

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Matias Abril
Published: Updated:

After Hurricane Ian, the stone crab industry was pretty much wiped out for the past year. Many boats were destroyed, along with restaurants that served stone crab.

Dallas Ryan is the manager of Island Crab Company on Pine Island. Ian left their building heavily damaged, and it impacted every person connected to the company.

“Boats were tore up. The crabbers, in particular, you know, a lot of them had damages to their own homes, but they still needed to get their traps in the water because they still got to make money. The world doesn’t stop turning around them. Everything keeps going,” Ryan said.

Even getting to the island was impossible after the storm damaged the Matlacha Pass Bridge.

“The mangroves are still, you know, they’re not green like they used to be,” said Max Lilie, captain for about ten years. “They’re still a little brown in areas, and there’s still stuff down, channel markers missing, you know, derelict boat here in the woods or something, but it’s coming back.”

Ian took its toll on one of his three boats and his crab-trapping equipment, but this year is a fresh start, and like many others, he’s turning the page on a challenging year.

Even the restaurants serving this stone crab, like Pinchers in Downtown Fort Myers, are also turning over a new leaf.

Having restaurants to service these stone crabs is a blessing for Ryan, who said many of the restaurants they worked with on Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel were destroyed this time last year.

Ryan said it’s been a slower start to the stone crab season than in previous years. He said things typically pick up when cold fronts move through the area and cause the crabs to move around more.

Lilie doesn’t think Ian had a significant impact on the local crab populations, saying many were caught last season, but they had fewer locations to sell them to.

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