F ive hours after fishermen were able to pull their pots Monday, the Crescent City Harbor bustled with idling semis and crisscrossing forklifts as the first Dungeness crab of the season hit Citizens Dock.
Seafood buyers and families of those who brave the ocean to seek the crustaceans were optimistic despite a two-month delay to the season. However, Joe Marques, manager of Pacific Choice Seafoods, said buyers and fishermen will get a better idea of what the season will look like when they pull their pots for a second or third time.
“There’s a lot of crab out there,” Marques said. “This is just the first day.”
Joey Raby of Caito Fisheries noted most of the crab he and his fellow dock workers are pulling into Citizens Dock are from the smaller boats in Crescent City’s fishing fleet. Larger vessels venture 20 to 30 miles offshore to pull up their pots and likely won’t come in until later, he said.
Raby speculated that he would be working until about 11 p.m. Monday because once they bring their catch to the dock, the fishermen are going back out to sea.
Crabbers finally dropped their gear Saturday and were able to pull their pots at 8 a.m. Monday. Seafood buyers are paying fishermen $2.75 per pound for the crab they bring in, Rick Shepherd, president of the Del Norte Fisherman’s Marketing Association, told the Triplicate on Thursday.
The Dungeness crab season in Crescent City typically starts Dec. 1. But the California Department of Fish and Wildlife delayed the season to Jan. 15 due to quality test results in November and December. Jan. 15 is the latest the Department of Fish and Wildlife can delay the season due to quality testing.
However, once the season officially opened Jan. 15, crabbers still held off on fishing.
In a Jan. 16 article, Eureka fisherman Aaron Newman told the Triplicate that crab quality was still in question and seafood buyers wanted to see one more test before they offered a price.
Newman said he didn’t know of any previous years where crab quality was still a concern beyond Jan. 15.
On Monday, Michael Freels, sales manager for Caito Fisheries, said the crab that’s coming in “seem nice” so far.
“We’ll know better when we’re cooking them,” Freels said. “They’ll go to the processing plant in Fort Bragg and Eureka.”
Sherri Stolt and Kim James, whose sons Rudi Stolt Jr. and Jesse James, worked aboard the boat Survival Too, watched as it unloaded its first catch of the season.
Stolt said they pulled crab from 100 pots so far and have 400 more to check. She speculated that Rudi Stolt Jr. and Jesse James will still be hard at work after dark.
“It’s been a long wait,” Sherri Stolt said. “They’re excited.”
Kim James, whose husband had also worked on the Survivor Too before retiring, said she’s hoping the 2018 fisheries will have few negative surprises. She said her husband retired from fishing following the 2011 tsunami and she’s seen her son struggle with seasonal delays while raising two boys.
“When he sent me the first picture of the 50 pots they pulled I started crying because I know the struggle,” Kim James said. “From what they’re saying there’s a lot of crab out there. Some years there’s a lot and it just drops out. Hopefully this year, there’ll be a lot and it’ll just gradually go down. They need a good year, that’s for sure.”
Reach Jessica Cejnar at email@example.com .