s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 5 of 15 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read 10 of 15 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read all of your free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting 99 cents per month and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for reading! Why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting 99 cents per month and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Subscribe today!
Ooops! You're out of free articles. Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading all of our products and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?

BODEGA BAY — Fishermen are checking, mending and stacking pots and tending to their boats in preparation for the opening of commercial crab season.

"We're going through the gear, making sure it is up to par — you don't want to go out there and lose crab," said Mike Duer, a deckhand on the Viola E., which has about 300pots.

"We are working on the pots. We mend, change the rubbers, check the ropes, put on leads, fix any holes, check the buoys ... it's an ongoing thing," said Steve Ayers, a deckhand on the Provider.

The consensus among fishermen at the Spud Point Marina is that the season, which opens Nov. 15, will be like last year, when 1.1 million pounds were caught on the Central Coast, which stretches from the Gualala River south to Monterey.

That was one more bad year following several others.

"I don't think it will be big, I don't think it will be belly (up)," Ayers said. "You can put out test pots, you can read the tea leaves, but you never know. It will be what it will be."

There was also a lot of hemming and hawing by crabbers on whether they would go out when the central season opens, wait for the Dec. 1 opener in the rest of Northern California, or not go out at all this year.

"It's not looking like it will be a big season," said Joe Mantua, owner of the Haida Queen. "We're getting ready, but we're going north."

Third-generation Bodega Bay fisherman Jerry Ames said he was not going out, for the second year in a row.

"I don't think it's enough to make it pay," Ames said. "We're more interested in duck hunting anyway."

Still, Ames said he thinks most of the fleet of 40 to 50 crab boats at Spud Point will be on the ocean Nov. 14, the first day to put the pots in, and Nov. 15, the first day to pull them out.

The commercial fishery in Washington's Puget Sound was the first to open, on Oct. 1. The area of Northern California above Gualala will open Dec. 1.

The sport crab season opens Saturday and may give the commercial fishermen a preview of what to expect. Sport crabbers are limited to 10 crab with a minimum size of 5.75 inches.

The earlier Central Coast opening is also supposed to put crab on the Thanksgiving Day table.

"We have the two-week opener for Thanksgiving, it is a premium market. Boats get more money, providing they can get crab in those two weeks," said Michael Lucas, president of North Coast Fisheries in Santa Rosa.

The price won't be set until the week before the season opens, but it is not expected to be much different than a year ago, at $2.25 to $2.50 a pound, which would mean a price of $5 a pound at stores.

The prices are set in negotiations between the fishermen associations in Bodega Bay, San Francisco and Half Moon Bay and the seafood buyers. They also are influenced by the price in Puget Sound, which is also $2.25 to $2.50 a pound.

"That might be an indicator, but it really is a factor of how many crabs there are on the ground in the Bay Area when that starts and the impact of Washington state tribal fisheries," said Bill Cavalho of Wild Planet seafood in McKinleyville. "If that season is robust, that will impact the ability to raise prices."

The crab fishery is cyclical and in the midst of a down cycle, said Pete Kalvass, a biologist in the Fort Bragg office of the state Department of Fish and Game.

Last year, 1.1 million pounds were caught in the central area, the third year of a steady decline.

The small size of the crabs last year and the crabs that are being incidentally taken by trawlers this year indicate a large number are one to two years away from maturity.

Commercial crab fishermen are limited to catching male crabs over 6.25 inches in diameter.

The last time the catch was that low was in 2000, but then it jumped to a high of 6.1 million pounds in the 2005-05 season, Kalvass said.

"It's still hard to predict. It will be a little better than last year and the following year will be significantly better," Kalvass said. "This fishery seems to be driven by ocean factors, random factors in the ocean, and not that much driven by fishing effort, fishing practices."

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.