MARATHON, Florida Keys — Seafood fans can celebrate the start of stone crab season in the Florida Keys with the seventh annual Stone Crab Eating Contest, set for noon Saturday, Oct. 21. The always-anticipated event is to be staged at Keys Fisheries Market and Marina, located off U.S. Highway 1 on Marathon's 35th Street gulfside.
In the unique contest, amateur eaters age 18 and over compete to crack and consume 25 stone crab claws, picking them clean, in the fastest time. If a tie occurs, a 10-claw tiebreaker will be held to determine the winner.
Stone crab season runs from Oct. 15 to May 15 each year. The Keys are a top supplier of the succulent delicacy to restaurants throughout the United States.
Only the claws are harvested, and the crab's body is returned to the water to grow new claws. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the tasty crustaceans are the state's only renewable seafood resource.
Individual participants and two-person teams can enter the test of crab-eating capacity. Fee is $50 per individual entrant. All contestants must be registered and complete a participant release form by 11 a.m.
Prizes are to be awarded the contest's top individual contestants and teams, that traditionally include certificates for area restaurants, day passes to popular Florida Keys attractions or complimentary hotel stays.
After the contest, entrants are allowed to take home any crab claws they couldn't finish to enjoy at their own pace.
Event registration information: keysfisheries.com/events/
Marathon visitor information: fla-keys.com/marathon or
Competitors crack and consume 25 stone crab claws, picking them clean, in the fastest time. Images: Andy Newman