Have you always wanted to see a shark feeding frenzy while remaining firmly off the menu?
A Key West seafood restaurant can hook you up.
The Stoned Crab in Key West has turned a daily ritual of fish cleaning into a must-see, family-friendly, Instagram moment.
It all started, according to owner Chris Holland, when fishermen would bring their boats back to the restaurant’s seafood market, clean the day’s catch at the dock and throw skin and guts over the side. A few nurse sharks arrived for a free lunch.
Soon, more nurse sharks were showing up - and so were people.
“We started to notice people watching,” Holland says. “We loved watching it, too.”
So now, with 23 or so sharks, including six-week-old youngsters Flip and Flop, The Stoned Crab management set up an organized feeding schedule and invited customers to watch and even feed the sharks themselves using bait and long tongs (don’t worry - there’s supervision). Resident shark expert Robin tells the crowd about the sharks, their lifespan and growth expectations, how the pups are born with polka dots and other fun facts.
As you might imagine, watching sharks go crazy for dinner is a popular draw, especially since it’s free.
“Whenever you’re on vacation, you don’t remember the bus ride or the plane ride. You remember the crazy experiences,” Holland says. “I remember when I was a kid, my mum and dad took my brother and me to a farm, and we saw a foal being born. I was 8 or 9, and I can remember everything about it. When kids feed these sharks, you can look at their faces and see how great it is for them.”
If they’re brave enough to feed the sharks, kids get a sticker proclaiming them official Key West commercial fisherman. The sharks, by the way, aren’t penned and freely roam the waters around the restaurant when it’s not dinner time.
When the dinner bell is about to ring, though, Holland says they line up and fan out around the dock about 15 minutes before feeding time.
“They’re like, ‘OK, come on, it’s dinner time,’ “ he says.
The Stoned Crab
Where: 3101 N Roosevelt Blvd, Key West
Shark feeding times: 1 p.m., 5 p.m., 8 p.m., 10 p.m. (weather permitting)