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New trap requirements starting in 2020

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, recreational fishers age 16 and older (including those normally exempt from needing a license) will be required to complete an online, no-cost recreational blue crab trap registration before using blue crab traps. 

A recreational stone crab trap registration will also be required before using stone crab traps, starting with the 2019 stone crab season, which begins Oct. 15, 2019. 

To register, visit GoOutdoorsFlorida.com and add the Recreational Blue Crab Trap Registration or the Recreational Stone Crab Trap Registration to your fishing license account. These trap registrations will be available online 1-2 months before the start of the 2019 stone crab season.

Upon completion, each person will receive unique trap registration numbers that must be included on each trap along with the owner’s full name and address. Registration numbers for blue crab traps will begin with the letter “B”; registration numbers for stone crab traps will begin with the letter “S”.” This information must be legible and must be permanently attached to each trap.

This no-cost registration will allow FWC to collect important information about these recreational fisheries needed for future stock assessments and management decisions.   

 

Florida Regulations Gulf and Atlantic State Waters

Blue crabs

Size Limit: None

Daily Bag Limit: 10 gallons whole per harvester per day

Harvest of egg-bearing crabs prohibited

Gear Requirements:

Legal Gear: blue crab trap (max. 5 per person), dip or landing net, drop net, fold up trap with a volume of no more than one cubic foot, hook and line, push scrape, trotline 

Example of a standard recreational blue crab trap

Trap Specifications

  • Maximum trap size is 2 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet or a volume of 8 cubic feet
  • Mesh size must be 1 1/2 inches or larger
  • The throat or entrance cannot extend farther than 6 inches into the inside of any trap
  • Must have at least three escape rings, one of each located on a vertical outer surface adjacent to each chamber
  • Escape rings must be larger than 2 3/8 inches
  • The trap must have a degradable panel larger than 3 inches by 6 inches
  • Types of degradable panels include: untreated jute twine, non-coated steel wire measuring 24 gauge or thinner, untreated pine dowel no larger than 2 inches in length by 3/8 inch in diameter or untreated pine slats no thicker than 3/8 inch
  • Harvester name and address must be permanently affixed to the trap and legible
  • The buoy must be no smaller than 6 inches and must be marked with a legible “R” that is at least 2 inches tall

Trapping Regulations

  • Traps must be pulled manually (not by a mechanical trap puller). Any vessel that is rigged with a trap puller will be considered a commercial vessel and the appropriate licenses will be required.
  • Traps must be pulled only during daylight hours.
  • Traps must not be placed in navigational channels of the Intracoastal waterways, or in navigational channels maintained and marked by any county, municipal, state or federal governmental agency.
  • No harvest allowed with any trap out of state waters (seaward of nine nautical miles from shore in the Gulf of Mexico or seaward of three nautical miles from shore in the Atlantic Ocean).

 State Waters Trap Closures:

Sept. 20 - Oct. 4 closed to traps in Gulf state waters beyond 3 miles and in federal waters.

Evn years Blue Crab retrieval zone map

Blue Crab Trap Harvest Regional Closed Seasons

In an effort to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from Florida, the FWC has established regional blue crab trap closures. These six regional closures last up to 10 days and prohibit recreational and commercial harvest of blue crabs with traps in these areas. The closures alternate coasts every year with closures on the east coast of Florida occurring during the even numbered years and closures on the west coast occurring on the odd years.

Even Year Closures

  • All waters of the St. Johns River system its associated lakes and tributaries from west of the St. Johns River's intersection with the Intercoastal Canal through and including Lake Helen of Blazes from Jan. 16-25
  • All waters from the Georgia/Florida state line, excluding the St. Johns River system, south through Volusia County from Aug. 20-29
  • All waters of Brevard through Palm Beach counties, excluding the St. Johns River system, from Aug. 10-19
Odds years Blue Crab retrieval zone map

Odd Year Closures

  • All waters of Franklin County to the Florida/Alabama state line however, excluding all waters of the Ochlockonee River and Bay, from Jan. 5-14
  • All waters of Broward through Pasco Counties from July 10-19
  • All waters of Hernando through Wakulla counties including all waters of the Ochlockonee River and Bay from July 20-29

These closed seasons only apply to standard blue crab traps. The harvest of blue crabs by other gear, such as dip nets and fold-up traps, is permitted during the closures. Traps that are attached to private property such as a dock are not included in the closures. 

A man holding a blue crab with eggs intact

Can female blue crabs be harvested?

Female blue crabs may be harvested lawfully if they are not bearing eggs. Although it is lawful to keep non-egg bearing female blue crabs, it is a conservation practice to release them unharmed. There has been evidence that the females support the population of the species. Male crabs are capable of mating several times, but females are only able to mate once, after they mature.

If a juvenile female is harvested, there will be no chance that she will be able to reproduce. Additionally, mature females may store sperm in their bodies for several months after mating in order to spawn at a later date. If a mature female is harvested, though she may not exhibit eggs, there is no certainty that she has spawned.

Releasing female blue crabs enhances reproductive capacity and population renewal.