When you go on a fishing boat and set out for Dungeness crab, the ocean will no doubt have some surprises. You might spy a humpback whale, or accidentally trap a 100-pound octopus along with the crabs.
Recreational Dungeness crab season officially began Saturday, and the sleepy fishing village of Bodega Bay is stirring, a destination for the crab-fishing enthusiast.
As though on a pilgrimage, people come to Bodega Bay from all over the country and beyond to taste Carol Anello's clam chowder and crab cakes at Spud Point Crab Co., thanks to Internet reviews on yelp.com. And people looking for a recreational outing come from inland — tourboat operators cite Nevada and Idaho — as well as the greater Bay Area, to fish Dungeness crab on chartered boats.
Meanwhile, fishermen are prepping for commercial Dungeness crab season, which begins Nov. 15.
"We have a number of traps and every year we go through them and check them for holes, for frayed lines, anything that could cause a problem," said 62-year-old Tony Anello, co-owner with his wife, Carol, of Spud Point Crab Co. In addition to the caf? the company has commercial boats equipped with tanks to hold from 6,000 to 8,000 pounds of crab.
"We go out sometimes for as much as 36 hours straight," Anello said. "We go until we fill up the tanks and then we come in ... We have a lot of competition from locals and boats from the north, so we've got to catch the product when we can."
Anello said he and his fishermen will put out 350 traps and they'll check them regularly, with each trap catching anywhere from one to 15 crabs.
"It's called fishing," he said. "It's like farming. You don't know how your crop will be."
Anello and his crew fish from Point Reyes to Point Arena.
"I like being out on the water," he said. "It's serene. You're away from the hustle and bustle on land. ... I come from a long line of fishermen. My father did it before the war (World War II) and my grandfather came over from Sicily and was a fisherman. Basically, it's in my blood."
Carol takes a portion of his catch and makes all kinds of dishes for their restaurant, but one of the most popular are the crab cakes.
"I make 80 every Saturday and another batch of 80 on Sunday," she said. "I don't take reservations. It's first come, first served."
For those who want to catch their meal and experience recreational fishing first-hand, the Boathouse charters boats for groups of up to 48, charging $55 a pop.
"The exciting thing about an adventure on the ocean is that you never know exactly what you'll see," said Captain Rick Powers, who owns the Boathouse, which also has a caf? "We've seen gray whales, humpback whales and blue whales," Powers said. "The weather always changes, and when you pull up the crab pot, you really never know how many crabs will be inside."
Recreational and commercial Dungeness crab seasons run throughout the winter.
"The ocean experience is something in and of itself," Powers said. "But the best part is the bounty of the catch, taking home these beautiful Dungeness crabs."