Dungeness Crab Season Peaks

By Mike Baxter

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PHOTO: Ken Kaysen with a couple of Monterey Bay Dungeness Crabs.

Crab season opened for sport fishing Dungeness crabs the beginning of November with full pots, and the commercial season started mid month and has been very productive also. Ports from Monterey bay to the Sonoma Coast have produced heavy hulls of crabs for commercial fishermen and the market demand is high.

Recreational crab fishermen stated strong from central to northern California with limits (10 crabs per person) the norm for most boats. The pursuit of crab for sport fishermen has gained interest the past decade and each year seems to draw more fishermen. It is a vast recourse of crabs out there and seems to be properly managed with steady renewing numbers. Ten years ago the crab craze started to creep its way south as sport anglers had fished Dungeness crabs in northern California for years many people in Monterey Bay were not sure how strong the population was. With each recent year new locations are found and more sport and commercial fishermen are dipping their pots in the Bay. With the draw comes hardship as some may find missing gear or crab pots that seem to have been checked and cleaned out by unethical anglers. This may come with the territory but is still a shame as setting, baiting and maintaining crab gear is not easy or cheap and taking the time to check gear to find no crabs is a let down. The crab season starts to peak with catches and desire around the Holidays.

Hans Haveman from Hand H Fresh reported, “This is a banner year most boats are coming in full to capacity with 3 to 9 thousand pounds of crabs.” Haveman also added the global demand for crabs is very strong as well as the local market, this trend will persist through the end of the year.” The commercial season that started from Sonoma coast to the south was terrific with a strong price set at $3.00 a pound off the boat to the whole sale market. Consumers may pay three times this price at the market. Crabs can be purchased live at the Santa Cruz Harbor from commercial boats off the dock and at H and H Fresh.

The commercial season will open from the Sonoma coast to the Oregon Border December 1st this may flood the market if the weather is good the price may drop at that time. The northern crab opener will depend on the quality of crabs at that time. Dungeness crabs molt and at that time they have soft shells and low meat content, this impacts the opening date in the northern waters. The weather this time of year also effects productivity for the sport and commercial crab season, so far it has been a great season. If catching crabs is on your list I hope it is productive. If a crab dinner is part of your familie’s Holiday tradition I hope it is delicious.

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