Two days into Florida's stone crab season, it already looks grim. Few crabs plus huge demand equals stratospheric prices.
For now, retail prices may hover around $15 per pound for mediums, $30 per pound for jumbos, said Tommy Shook, general manager of Frenchy's Seafood. In a good year, mediums might start out around $8 pounds, jumbos $20.
Why? It's a perfect storm.
Last year's terrible season meant that many part-time crabbers didn't even drop traps this year, forgoing the season altogether, according to Matt Loder Sr., CEO of Crabby Bill's restaurants.
"Take all those part-time crabbers out of the equation and a lot fewer crabs will come in," he said.
That number is further squeezed by the federal shutdown. Every crab trap requires a tag — those crabbers late to get their tags may have been shut out of the season's launch.
In Everglades City, many professional crabbers went on strike as the season opened Tuesday and refused to leave the docks. They were offered only $7.50 for boat price for mediums, so they decided to park it in the hopes dockside pricing will change.
"If you're a crabber in Homosassa Springs and you hear the crabbers down south aren't going out crabbing," Loder said, "you think you should be getting more for your stuff."