ON THE PACIFIC OCEAN — Dungeness crab fishermen for the first time this season hauled in pot after pot of writhing crustaceans here in a rush to fill up boats and get the valuable catch to shore before the market floods and prices fall.
On Wednesday, the first day of the commercial crab harvest, Brookings, Ore.-based captain Joe Speir motored his 50-foot boat, the Equinox, through unusually calm, deep blue seas. A line of buoys marked where his crab pots lay.
With an electric winch humming, Speir's deckhands pulled up hundreds of Dungeness crab from metal traps tethered about 60 feet below. They toiled at lightning speed, taking advantage of the windless, sun-drenched day. The crew threw female and immature crabs over the railing and dumped keepers into the boat's hold before dropping the pots back into the water for another go.
Speir expected to have a full load — an astonishing 30 tons — of crab by midnight on the first day before heading back to the docks to collect his $1.75 per pound. For the Equinox, it was shaping up to be a $100,000 first day in what is expected to be a record-setting crab season here.
"We go around the clock," Speir said from his vessel's deck, bobbing atop slow-rolling swells. "This is going to be a good year, and the next couple of years should be good around here, too."