The season's first batch of fresh Dungeness crab reached Sonoma County supermarkets Saturday, though quantities remained small because of rough seas that have kept many commercial boats in port.
"It's a pretty limited supply for this first go-round," said Todd Davis, the meat and seafood coordinator for Cotati-based Oliver's Markets.
But a few boats were expected to make new deliveries in Bodega Bay by late Saturday, he said, and "it should put us in pretty good shape" for shoppers Sunday.
Customers at G&G Supermarket in Santa Rosa expressed pleasure Saturday after the season's first crabs arrived there in the early afternoon.
"I'm thrilled," said Lisa Smith of Santa Rosa, who stopped by the seafood department just in case the tasty crustaceans were on hand. "Now I don't have to worry about dinner tonight."
The commercial crab season opened here Friday, but strong winds and large ocean swells have made conditions "pretty lousy," said Chuck Cappotto, president of the Fishermen's Marketing Association of Bodega Bay.
"It's kind of a rough start to the crab season," Cappotto said.
Weather permitting, he expected a few more boats to depart Bodega Bay by late Saturday and most of the remaining fleet to shove off Sunday.
"The full stream of crab probably won't be in the markets until Tuesday, Monday or Tuesday," Cappotto said.
G&G CEO Teejay Lowe said the few thousand pounds of crab delivered Saturday to his two stores represented a limited supply.
When it comes to crab, he said, "we normally measure in increments of 10,000 pounds."
But he also expected supplies to increase in the next few days.
On Saturday G&G was selling crab, live or cooked, for $4.99 a pound.
The price at Oliver's was $5.99. The first crabs to the company's Stony Point store were expected sometime after 2 p.m. Saturday.
The dockside price to the fishermen is $3 a pound, Cappotto said.
Both dockside and retail prices often fluctuate after Dec. 1, when the commercial season opens north of Sonoma County.
It remains too soon to know how big the catch will be this season, but expectations remain tempered. Cappotto said a test harvest conducted annually under state supervision "wasn't quite as good as last year."
Shoppers used different means to find out when they could actually get their hands on the North Coast delicacy.
Santa Rosa school board member Bill Carle said he called The Tides Wharf in Bodega Bay on Friday evening, only to learn that the crustaceans weren't yet available for sale there.
As a result, he drove Saturday to G&G and bought four cooked crabs.
"It's a tradition that goes back to my grandmother," Carle said of his family's early season crab feast.
This year may be the start of a new tradition for Emily Mericle, who's family recently moved to Cotati from Phoenix.
"We thought this would be a fun, new experience for us," she said.
Mericle monitored the G&G Facebook page for updates on the crab's anticipated arrival. On Saturday she brought her sons, 4-year-old Mason and 18-month-old Oliver, to the Santa Rosa store and purchased a live Dungeness.
Her plan, she said, was to steam it "and then we'll maybe try some butter or whatever else we can round up."