By Michelle Ma
Triplicate staff writer
CRESCENT CITY The first Dungeness crabs from Crescent City have already hit San Francisco and Los Angeles markets, but crab fishing was put on hold shortly after Saturday's opener because of severe storm conditions.
All of the fishing boats in Crescent City's harbor are once again tied in placewaiting.
Forecasted high ocean swells and strong winds forced most fishing boats to head back toward Crescent City's harbor Saturday afternoon. But fishermen were able to pull in the commercial season's first Dungeness crab early this weekend.
"It was just a Saturday-only show," said Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Association.
Fishermen will let weather forecasts determine when they will return to their crab pots to continue harvesting Dungeness crabs. Depending on wave swells, some of the larger boats might venture out Wednesday.
Even though fishermen had limited time to fish before the storm hit, they say the volume of Dungeness doesn't seem very good, which was expected. But fishermen say they will know more after the high waves subside.
Still, crabs from the weekend opener have already reached eager consumers. By 8 a.m. Saturday, Carvalho Fisheries received its first Dungeness deliveries from the Crescent City port.
The processing company buys from about 12 local fishing vessels. Most of the crab caught Saturday was shipped live to San Francisco and Los Angeles, said President Bill Carvalho.
For processing companies, a delay right at the start of the Dungeness fishery just spreads out production time over a longer period.
But for fishermen, a severe storm can damage equipment and add to the waiting time after months of anticipation for the Dec. 1 opener.
Most fishermen leave their crab pots out in the ocean during storms, but some try to move gear to deeper water to keep sand from filling the crab pots at shallow depths.
Sand and mud can completely bury the gear and, in some cases, smother crabs that have already entered the trap.
When high ocean waves hitas expected with this stormcrab pots are less likely to fill with unwanted debris when they are placed in greater water depths where the ocean floor is more firm and less sandy.
Some local fishermen pulled up their crab pots and stored them on their boats to ride out the storm.
Along the Oregon coast, fishermen made a dent in pulling up their first Dungeness catches, even though the storm was more severe further north along the coast. Most of the boats did unload once, although they didn't get to check all of their pots before returning to the harbors, said Furman with the Oregon Dungeness Crab Association.
"In most cases, everybody got a little taste of what's out there," he said. "They caught some crab and got it started."
Crescent City fisherman David Evanow and his crew started pulling Dungeness early Saturday morning and didn't find many crabs, he said. They spent most of the day moving crab pots away from the sandy ocean bottom to prepare for the storm.
If ocean swells stay in the 20-foot range, Evanow said he won't risk going out to fish. He, and the rest of the coast's fishermen, hope the ocean's waters will settle quickly.
"We're just sitting here with our fingers crossed," Evanow said.
Local fishermen said there appears to be no damage to boats that dock in Crescent City Harbor. A few boats came loose during the strongest winds, but harbor staff were able to tie them up before they were damaged, said Harbormaster Richard Young.
Four harbor employees took shifts Sunday and overnight into Monday to make sure docks and boats were secure.
Monday morning surveys showed some damage to docks in the inner boat basin. Dock pilings rings were damaged, along with some pieces that connect to walkways, Young said.
"By and large, most things are okay," he said.
It's unclear if more repair costs will be incurred, Young said, but these damages add to the already-weakened boat docks that took a hit during last year's tsunami.