Season off to slow start

By Adam Spencer, The Triplicate December 17, 2013 04:57 pm

It’s called fishing, not catching. And you never really know what the catch is going to be until the season opens, the price is settled, and the Dungeness crab fleet actually starts to check to see how fast their traps fill up with that sweet crustacean.  

In 2006, Crescent City crab landings were at a 26-year high of 12.9 million pounds. Just five years prior, the port was at a 26-year low of only 1.1 million pounds landed.

This winter’s crab season is shaping up to be on that downside, with crabs being caught at a slow pace.

“It’s wages; not much more than that,” is how one commercial fishermen described the season so far.

Rick Harris, who oversees all of the processing on the West Coast for Pacific Seafood, which handles a majority of West Coast Dungeness, said that coastwide prospects might brighten when Oregon fishermen start bringing in hauls. The Oregon season opened on Monday.

But in Northern California, “hardly any boats have delivered yet,” Harris said, adding that crab vessels were trying different grounds, depths and bait to get the ocean spiders to show up in higher numbers.

“There are not a lot of crabs around. People are having trouble finding them if they’re out there at all,” Harris said.

Down years are to be expected in what is known to be a cyclical fishery.  There was 7.5 million pounds of crab landed in Crescent City in the 2011–2012 season and 9 million pounds were landed last season.

Since the vast majority of crab is typically landed in the first two weeks of fishing, it should be clear soon how this season is really shaping out.

“It’s pretty skinny so far, so we’ll see how it goes in the next day or two,” Harris said.

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