Crews rushing to haul in pots before a storm
Snow crabs? Nope — just Dungeness in weird weather.
Nor Cal Seafood manager Kevin Wilson unloads crab Monday afternoon on Citizen’s Dock. Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
Crab fishermen and dock workers got a taste of snowflakes as Dungeness-filled pots started coming into a slushy harbor Sunday morning.
Commercial crab fishermen are accustomed to working in the wet, so maybe it’s only appropriate to have snow on the sea to start the season — plus big storms in the forecast.
California coastal waters north of Point Arena will experience gale force winds starting this evening with storm-force winds expected from Point St. George northward, according to the National Weather Service. Conditions will start to die down Wednesday, but the seas will remain high into the weekend.
“That’s going to shut us down,” DJ Colbertson, a fisherman on the 28-foot crab vessel Boxcars, said Tuesday.
On the bright side, the catch looks good. Although it was Colbertson’s first year crabbing, he has heard this year’s catch looks better than in recent years and the record-high $3 per pound opening price “makes it even sweeter,” he said.
Kevin Wilson, a manager for Nor Cal Seafood in Crescent City, said the catch has been great so far. Wilson unloaded a boat that hauled in $60,000 worth of Dungeness on Sunday. Although some of the barely legal-sized crabs were a little soft, Wilson said the medium and large-sized crabs were “great.”
The healthy, meaty crabs come as a relief after the local commercial season was delayed six weeks — the longest in decades — due to early tests showing low meat mass.
The shorter 36-hour pre-soak (the time when fishermen can lay their pots but before they can legally pull them) that comes with delays makes for a busier start to the season. Deckhands and dock hands “could use a break,” Wilson said.
On Monday, Wilson was unloading crabs that were headed “straight to Canada,” he said, but Alber Seafood will be selling local live and cooked crabs, and Ray’s Food Place should have North Coast crabs within a week.
Live crabs can sometimes also be purchased from captains coming in with fresh catch if you ask, Wilson said.
“The cooked market, which is the primary market for Dungeness crabs, will require the highest sales prices in history to be profitable (for retailers) with a $3 boat price,” said Rick Harris, plant manager for Pacific Choice Seafood in Eureka, in an email to the Triplicate.