Crews started raising pots just after midnight; price is $2.50/pound

North Coast fishermen pulled up the first crab pots of the commercial season this morning, after six weeks of delays.

"I'll probably be neck-deep in crab by 8 a.m.," said Jamie Pearce, operations manager for LCZ Unloaders, a local seafood shipper.

Crab fishermen were able to drop their pots just after noon Sunday. They were able to raise them starting at 12:01 a.m. today.

Docks at Crescent City Harbor have been buzzing, with fork lifts going back and forth and people loading gear onto boats.

"Most of the boats are on the ocean right now," Harbormaster Richard Young said Monday. "For the first week of the season, most boats will fish every hour that they can, depending on the weather. There are a lot of boats on the ocean."

Crab season has gotten a late start for the second year in a row due to low meat-to-shell ratios found in North Coast crabs. Last year's Jan. 15 start was the first such delay in two decades, but the opening price, $3 per pound, was a record. California also saw a record catch in 2012 at 31,680,250 pounds of crab.

Pearce said many North Coast fishermen are expecting a starting price of $2.50 per pound this season.

"I would think it's going to be a good season from the reports I've heard," he said.

Pearce added that Pacific Choice Seafood, as one of the biggest seafood buyers on the West Coast, sets the opening price. A Pacific Choice Seafoods representative confirmed that the starting price for Dungeness would be $2.50 per pound.

Because 2012 was such a lucrative year for Crescent City crabbers despite the late start, demand for dock space at the harbor has increased. Many boats have just shown up, Young said, and there really isn't a place to put them.

"What makes it work now is the fact that a lot of the boats are on the ocean," he said. "If all the boats were to come in at one time, we would not have room for all of them."

Harbor staff members are working to make sure that boats they rent spaces to are able to tie up, Young said. Often that means asking someone to move, a request that is usually complied with, he said.

"People can't just show up and tie wherever they want," Young said. "That causes some problems, and we have ordinances in place. If we have to resort to writing citations to enforce our rules we can do that. I hope it doesn't come to that."

Although crab season lasts as late as July, about 80 percent is caught in the first month and a half, Young said.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at