Bay Area crabbers prepare for season

November 14, 2008 8:09:17 AM PST
Local crabbers are getting ready for the start of the Dungeness crab season which begins at midnight. They've been leaving the docks Friday morning to drop their pots.

For some, hopes are riding high this crab season that those traps will soon return to the wharf, bustling with crab - but this year, that may be only a fish tale.

"You never know until you drop your traps - but it doesn't sound promising," said Frank Lee, crabber.

Frank Lee aboard the Voyager has heard those bad reports from the sport fishermen who've tested the crab fishing spots 20 miles outside the Golden Gate; there just aren't many out there.

"If you know what they were doing - it would be called catching, instead of fishing," said Lee.

It hasn't been steady as she goes for the crabbers. Just days before the start of last season, the Cosco Busan spilled more than 50,000 gallons of oil into the Bay, postponing the season for weeks slamming crabbers and consumer confidence.

"We don't know the long term affects in the Bay are, the Bay is a nursery. But before we went crabbing last year we tested last year, and we know everything is perfectly safe," said Lee.

Then, another huge source of income for these fishermen - salmon season was cancelled because of a dwindling population. Rich Fitzpatrick has been crabbing for 30 years.

"The guys who are established are okay, but the guys who are just starting out, its pretty bad for them. I don't see it getting better without a good salmon and crab season here in the future," said Rich Fitzpatrick, crabber.

But the steady drumbeat of bad news will not be felt by consumers says Pat Politano of Alioto's Crab Stand on Fisherman's Wharf. Compared to the crabs he's serving now trucked in from Washington state, local crabs will be a bargain.

"The price will come down from $10.95 - it should go down to $6 to $6.50 to start off with, if everything goes okay," said Politano.

Crabbers have learned they can't entirely control their future, but they have a recommendation about yours:

"Get the water boiling, drop the crab right in there, leave it there for 18 minutes and pull it out - and enjoy," said Collins.


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