Jumpstarting the annual seven-month stone crab season is a much-anticipated munch-a-thon, the fourth annual Stone Crab Claw Eating Contest for amateur eaters, set for Saturday, Oct. 18.
Staged at Keys Fisheries Market and Marina, located at 35th Street gulfside in Marathon, the lively consumption competition is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Entrants must register and be present by 12 p.m. the day of the event.
Individual entry fee is $50, and two-person teams can register for $100. Contestants must be at least 18 years of age. Interested eaters are encouraged to register early for their bib-wearing spot at the table.
Contestants must crack, clean and eat 25 stone crab claws in the fastest time. Although they are provided with shell crackers, alternatively, entrants can gently smack the shell with the back of a large spoon — an effective method employed by many Keys locals.
In the event of a tie, those competitors must face off in a 10-claw competition to determine the top winner. Prizes are to be awarded to the top three finishers.
The individual first-place winner is to receive a two-night stay at Marathon’s Holiday Inn Express, the second-place finisher earns a dolphin swim encounter at the Dolphin Research Center and the third-place consumer is to be awarded a snorkel trip for two with Captain Hook’s Marina & Dive Center.
Top team prizes also are to be awarded. Proceeds from the team event are to benefit a Marathon-based charity.
Stone crab season runs from Oct. 15 to May 15 and hundreds of thousands of pounds of stone crab claws are steamed, cracked and served at local markets, restaurants and transported around the nation. The Keys are Florida’s top supplier of the succulent crustacean, considered a renewable resource because of the crabs’ ability to re-grow harvested claws.