Bodega Bay fishermen and seafood buyers have reached an agreement on price and, with the commercial crab fishing season starting on Sunday, the first North Coast crab could be in stores by Monday.
"A few of the smaller boats will be coming in to unload Sunday afternoon and the larger ones Sunday night or Monday morning," said Chris Lawson, president of the Fishermen's Marketing Association of Bodega Bay.
The indications are it will be a poor year for crab, with few out there large enough to meet the legal size limit, so fishermen are not showing much enthusiasm.
"We have such low expectations that we are not too excited about it, but it would be nice to get a paycheck," Lawson said. "There are guys getting ready and leaving in the morning," he said Friday. "Until we get the gear in the water, there isn't much to tell."
There are about 30 boats expected to be going out from Spud Point Marina. If a better season was expected, the number would be 50.
G&G Supermarket seafood buyer John Drake said there could be fresh crab in the store on Monday, but he did not yet know the price. He said it would likely be less than $5 a pound.
"It's hard to tell now, we haven't talked to the wholesalers about price yet, but it's 15 cents more a pound than last year," Drake said, referring to the fishermen's price.
Fishermen and seafood buyers no longer have signed market orders, but have verbally agreed to $2.50 a pound.
"Guys will be able to get out on time, providing the weather cooperates," said Michael Lucas, president of North Coast Fisheries, the largest single seafood buyer. "We should have crabs to cook Monday or Tuesday."
Saturday is the first day that fishermen can set out pots, which they can begin pulling on Sunday, the opening day of the season for the Central Coast that stretches from Gualala to Monterey. The season from Gualala north opens on Dec. 1.
A small craft advisory was in effect Friday and into Saturday for winds up to 25 miles per hour and ocean swells up to 9 feet, but it is not expected to keep the Bodega Bay fishing fleet from going out.
"People are pretty anxious to get out there and fish," said Seaman Brian Maffucci at the U.S. Coast Guard station in Bodega Bay. "I don't think it will affect them. We have already had a few commercial boats go out today. It won't keep them back."
The sport crab season opened last weekend, but fishermen were reporting that the crab that were caught were no bigger than 6 inches. Sport fishermen can keep crab that are a minimum of 5.75 inches, but the minimum size for commercial fishing is 6.25 inches.
Fisheries biologists expect the season this year to be on par with last year, in which 1.1 million pounds were caught on the Central Coast, the third year of a steady decline.
The last time the catch was that low was in 2000, but then it jumped to 6.1 million pounds for the 2005-06 season.