Season off to belated start this weekend
After dealing with a handicapped harbor and the longest season delay in decades, local commercial crab fishermen caught a break — the highest opening price in North Coast history.
Caito Fisheries branch in Crescent City and Pacific Choice Seafood in Eureka both said they will pay $3 a pound as the opening price for Dungeness crab. Alber Seafoods said their price is the same.
Michael Freels, dock manager of Caito Fisheries, said the crab quality tests taken last week looked “exceptionally well” with crabs averaging 26.7 percent meat mass. Pre-season quality tests showed low meat mass, delaying the start by six weeks, the longest delay in at least two decades.
Fishermen were granted “beautiful setting weather,” Freels said. “With any luck and a little blessing, we’ll be off to a good crab season.”
Crab boats trickled out of the Crescent City harbor Friday morning, stacked to the brim with crab traps. Almost all crab vessels were out at sea, ready to drop pots when the clock stuck 12:01 p.m., the earliest time state regulations allow.
The first day frenzy was calmer because of fewer boats this year. Due to the 2006 and 2011 tsunamis, the harbor only has about 85 temporary slips this year, providing more room for the remaining boats to operate. In 2006, there were 225 slips in the harbor and 165 slips in 2010.
“Things are going really smooth,” said Mike Horner, who was helping his son load traps on his boat to start the season. LCZ Unloaders were running a tight operation, Horner said.
“There’s a lot less sitting and waiting,” said crab fisherman, Ken Strombeck about having fewer vessels.
And as far as the record-breaking $3 per pound opening price?
“It’s awesome,” Strombeck said.
The sun was shining as more and more crab pots disappeared from the parking lot surrounding the inner boat basin. Fishermen can begin pulling up their pots at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
The southern Oregon coast, from about Gold Beach south, was also closed for commercial crabbing until this weekend. Commercial fishermen in Oregon, however, were able to set their pots as early as Thursday.
The Central Coast fishery isn’t replicating the record-breaking 19-million pound crab catch of last year, but Bay area crabbers have pulled in 6–7 million pounds, Department of Fish and Game Senior environmental scientist Pete Kalvass told the Sacramento Bee.
Lucy’s Crab Shack is closed for good, but some vessels may sell fresh crab off their boats if you venture down to the harbor and ask when crabs start coming in on Sunday. Harbormaster Richard Young said the Misty Anne often sells crab from the dock.
Ray’s Food Place might start selling local crab once the catch comes in.