While searching along the water’s edge today, we spotted some pieces of, and even a whole trotter. We aren’t talking about the folks out getting their exercise. It is a funny thing, but in SW Florida, amidst the shells, you might find some small white bones. Although they aren’t prehistoric finds, these bones do have an interesting story.
Put on your forensic scientist’s hat and take a closer look at these bones. You might find the bones you collect have several interesting shapes. If the bones are larger, you might notice that they have a nice, clean cut through the bone. Hmm… this bone was obviously not dislodged by a natural means.
When spoken with an English accent a “trotter” is the foot of a hoofed animal. It turns out these bones are the feet and anklebones of pigs, severed at the slaughterhouse or by the butcher. Just like our own feet and hands, a pig’s foot has several small bones differing in size and shape that you might find scattered among the familiar mollusks on the beach.
Although this cut of pork isn’t in very high demand at the grocery store, it is pretty popular with the opportunistic stone crab. With crushing claws that can exert up to 19,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, stone crabs can feed on almost anything including oysters, conchs, and other crabs, but a pig’s foot is as decent a meal as any.
Fishermen harvest only one claw from a stone crab, releasing the live crab back into the ocean. Don’t worry; they survive and generate new claws making the stone crab fishery a renewable operation. For further information on the stone crab fishery, check out this site.
Pigs’ feet are a bait of choice for commercial stone crab fishermen because they hold up in a crab trap pretty well. One or two feet go into each trap, and with thousands of commercial traps off the coast of Florida, it’s no wonder that quite a few trotters are washing up on Sanibel’s beaches.
The weather is warming, so go out and see if you can spotter some trotters today.