North Coast commercial crab fishermen could be in for another late start of the season, based on the first round of crab quality tests released this week.
Each fall, fishery managers coast-wide trap Dungeness crabs for testing and then delay the season if the ocean spiders aren’t meaty enough. The crabs must average 25 percent meat mass before the season opens.
Crescent City crabs came in at 15.5 percent meat mass, slightly higher than the 14.9 percent measured at this time last year. But last year the season opened Jan. 13 — the latest opening day in two decades, almost six weeks after the planned Dec. 1 start date.
Not that it was a bad crab season.
In fact, it was the best on record for Dungeness crab landings in California with 31,680,250 pounds of crabs caught commercially. Ultimately, last year’s lengthy delay may have been good for business.
The long delay prompted the highest opening price in North Coast history at $3 a pound. Statewide, commercial crab fishermen made just under $95 million, with a season average price of $2.99 per pound.
Six of the top 10 seasons on record have been in the last decade. Crescent City Harbormaster Richard Young recently pointed this out during a Harbor Commission meeting to demonstrate the health of the resource.
Crabs tested in Trinidad came in at 16.5 percent meat mass; Eureka crabs were 15.5 percent; Fort Bragg’s were 18.4 percent; and Brookings’ crabs came in at 17.6 percent.
It’s too early to tell if the sweet Dungeness crabs will fatten up soon enough to open the season on time. The next crab quality test will be conducted in the first week of November.