In the small fishing Village of Aripeka there is a great source of fresh and frozen stone crabs along with other seafood. The Aripeka Stone Crab Company was started in 1985 and their store is located just before the bridge to Norfleet Bait & Tackle. The Aripeka Stone Crab Company is also a commercial stone crab fishing operation, so the stone crabs do not come any fresher.
They have five options for stone crab claws medium, large, jumbo, colossal, and floaters. The current pricing per pound is $15 medium, $23 large, $28 jumbo, $35 colossal, and $8 floaters.
A floater is a stone crab claw that has not fully been grown into yet. The stone crab molts and then has to grow into its new shell. The floater claws contain empty space so they float to the top of the pot when they are cooked.
They also offer other seafood including Argentinian red shrimp, oysters, sea scallops, octopus, smoked mullet, hogfish, cobia, triple tail and other seasonal items.
Stone crab season runs from October 15 through May 1, so that is the time to taste fresh claws. Stone crab claws are a Florida specialty as over 90% of stone crab claws sold in the United States originate in Florida. The claws quickly lose their freshness and this is why they are mainly sold in Florida. Stone crab claws are delicious, but are generally a bit pricey so this is why many Florida families reserve stone crab claws for the celebration of special occasions.
The Aripeka Stone Crab Company is family owned and operated by Matt and Karri Richardson. While you are there, the Richardson children might be playing in the yard and their dog might bring you a ball to throw. The retail space has a good sized gravel area for parking.
Karri's father, Ron Holliday, started stone crabbing in 1985. Their residence is the old Hammock Creek fish camp on the island of Aripeka. Throughout her childhood, Karri helped her father by cutting rope, burning buoys, and stamping traps. Karri and her older sister would also go out on the boat with their father. They were always interested to see what was in the traps: she crabs, sea urchins, octopus and little fish.
When her father returned with his catch he would cook the claws and the kids would raid the floaters
In the early 2000s, Karri started mermaiding at Weeki Wachee. Her father was now in his 60s and still crabbing by himself. His family was concerned about him pulling the crabs alone as this was dangerous work. He could get fouled in a line and pulled off the boat. Matt Richardson, a captain and 8th generation Floridian, contacted her father about operating the boat as he was doing storm cleanup and looking for a change.
At that time Karri took time off from Weeki Wachee and went to work with Matt driving the boat while he cracked claws. For Matt and Karri, a captain and a mermaid, it was a real love story. Now they are raising their two children, as they were raised on the Gulf of Mexico, fishing and enjoying the true beauty of Florida.
Matt and Karri took over the family business and now work hard to one day pass it on to the next generation, Koral and Fisher, to follow in their parents’ footsteps.
One change that Matt and Karri made was relocating the retail business. They were retailing the stone crabs from the old Hammock Creek fish camp, which was down a long driveway. This intimidated some visitors and others assumed they were lost. Matt wanted to find a retail space off the main road and they found the spot just before the bridge. By being on the Gulf of Mexico of the bridge they don't have to wait for low tide to get the boat out.
While waiting for a few customers ahead of me to be helped, I watched their kids Koral, a girl age 8 and Fisher, a boy age 5 playing in the yard was upset that Koral was playing with the Christmas tree lying in the yard and was scolding her. When it was my turn Fisher came to tell his mother Karri, that his sister was playing with the tree. His mother told him not to worry about it, since they were burning the tree for the new years eve that night. The boy responded, "No don't burn the tree." He was not ready for Christmas to be over yet. A little while later I heard him mumbling "I don't want them to burn the Christmas tree."
This is one of the joys of frequenting a small business. Often everyone has many jobs. The cashier was also the owner and watching her children. She also had an extensive knowledge of the best ways to prepare the seafood. She explained that the Argentine Red Shrimp had to be cooked just a few minutes on each side, otherwise they can become soft due to their delicate texture.
3080 Sunset Vista Dr, Spring Hill, FL 34607