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Safe at Sea: The saltwater slalom

January 14, 2020
By JOANNE P. HEROY-GILLER , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Florida's saltwater boating slalom is better known as cruising on the Gulf waters during stone crab season. From October to May, it becomes a challenge for all boaters - and a few boaters' nightmare.

Throughout the San Carols Bay and Pine Island Bay, as well as the waters on the Gulf-side of the islands, there are so many crab pots that a wavy slalom course is created. This happens during the legal harvest time of Oct. 15 through May 15.

The main method used for capturing the coveted stone crabs is commercial baited traps. They are put out in long lines. Sometimes, there are 100 traps attached to each of the lines. Each trap is then buoyed, so it can be easily spotted. The zigzag trap pattern creates a maze that can be tedious and difficult to travel through. So "You See One, You Miss It!" is the boater's on-the-water mantra during the season.

Article Photos

Stone crab trap picked up by a traveling boat.

Boats passing through the the Gulf waters during the seven months of seasonal harvesting should beware of snagging one of the hundreds of traps that are out there. Otherwise, that wooden trap with the metal hinges and heavy attaching lines might become ensnared in engine props or bow thrusters. The resultant unintentional "catch" could cause damage to the boat or one of the systems.

Of course, there is a wealth of stories of weary fisherman whose line has snagged a crab pot line. What a catch! Until May this is a heads up as you go for boaters in local waters or traveling to the Keys.

Joanne P. Heroy-Giller is a member of America's Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva. For more about the chapter and the courses it offers, visit or contact or 612-987-2125.



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