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Updated 11:00am - Nov 26, 2014

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Crab season first days: Mixed reports on catch size

 

Davon Cleaver with LCZ Unloaders transfers a fresh catch of crab at Crescent City Harbor on Wednesday.
Davon Cleaver with LCZ Unloaders transfers a fresh catch of crab at Crescent City Harbor on Wednesday. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
If Jamie Pearce wasn’t exactly neck-deep in Dungeness crab hours after the commercial season started Tuesday, he was getting there. Pearce, general manager at LCZ Unloaders, and his crew hoisted crabs up by the bucket loads, dumping them unceremoniously into plastic totes at Crescent City Harbor. 

Every now and then one of the rubber-booted workers would add a layer of ice to stop the crustaceans from crawling out of the totes to freedom.

“Don’t be afraid to touch them,” Pearce shouted to his crew. “Getting pinched is part of the job.”

By 10:30 a.m., the second boat was unloading its catch at LCZ Unloaders, said employee Lawrence Orcutt. He and his co-workers were busy packing roughly 5,000 pounds of Dungeness. Another 5,000 pounds of crab were already packed in totes awaiting transport to the cannery.

“It’ll be like this for 24 hours (a day) for the next couple of months,” Orcutt said.

Pearce said he and his crew were working until about 3:30 a.m. on Monday and started their day at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

“It’s all blended into one big, long 72-hour day,” he said.

Fishing reports have been mixed since the season started at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday. Some seafood buyers say the catch has been very good for their fleets. Others say the season so far has been average. And although it’s early, most say the season hasn’t been as good as last year. 

 

Lawrence Orcutt hoses down an area where crab fresh off the boat are unloaded.
Lawrence Orcutt hoses down an area where crab fresh off the boat are unloaded. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
The season got off to a late start for the second year in a row due to low meat-to-shell ratios found in North Coast crabs. This year’s starting price is still at $2.50 per pound. Last year fishermen received $3 per pound for their catch. 

“It’s slower than last year for a lot of guys,” said Joe Marks of Pacific Choice Seafoods. “People are saying it’s going to be a short season, but it’s hard to say.” 

For harbor staff and wardens with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the season has gone fairly smoothly. There haven’t been any enforcement violations so far, said John Wilcox, spokesman with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Overcrowding at the harbor hasn’t been a big problem either, since most fishermen are still on the ocean, Harbormaster Richard Young said. As long as the weather continues to be fair, they’ll likely stay on the ocean.

Because 2012 was such a lucrative year for Crescent City crabbers, demand for dock space at the harbor increased. But as of Wednesday, since the weather has been good, there hasn’t been a problem, Young said.

A fishing boat unloads at Citizen’s Dock on Tuesday morning.
A fishing boat unloads at Citizen’s Dock on Tuesday morning. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
“Hopefully everybody’s able to keep fishing,” he said, adding that fishermen usually head back out to sea once they’ve unloaded their catch. “Every day they’re in town somebody else is catching crab. They need to put every day that they can on the ocean.”

At the docks of Nor Cal Seafoods on Wednesday, Kevin Wilson and his crew were also busy unloading crab. Out of the 12 boats that fish for him, the smaller boats were able to make three trips out the first day of the season and came back full each time, he said. 

On Tuesday, about 100,000 pounds of crab came into Nor Cal Seafoods’ dock, Wilson said. He said he was expecting another 50,000 by the end of the day Wednesday. The crabs have also filled out, Wilson said. 

“As far as size goes, they’re average,” he said. “So far it’s been really good. Fishermen are telling me that some spots are spotty and others are 
really good.”

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