Fishermen prepare to kick off crab season

November 14, 2010 6:08:00 PM PST
Spirits are high for fisherman preparing to head out to sea for the opening of the commercial crab season. At midnight, boaters will begin hauling crab in a fishery that stretches from Point Arena to Point Conception. Fisherman in Fisherman's Warf are anticipating their biggest catch in four years.

Crab boats are lining the piers in San Francisco waiting to begin a harvest they believe will be a bumper harvest, but they are waiting for a test of the first catch to make sure it meets their quality standards.

The sound of crab being cracked and served is heard throughout Fisherman's Wharf. San Francisco is known for its delicacy and locals as well as tourists come here to feast.

"I'm a crab addict for sure yeah. If I lived in San Francisco, I'd be here every day for sure," says tourist Tamara Lim.

These fishermen are ready to supply Lim's addiction and the needs of anyone who wants fresh crab for Thanksgiving. Dozens of crab boats from as far away as Washington State are beginning to fill the docks and piers of the city. Crab season launches at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The reason why many boats are docked and not out dropping hundreds of pots is due to weather.

"Bit of a weather issue and the bigger boats, out of respect for the smaller boats, are giving them a day before they set the gear," says fisherman Mel Wickliffe.

Apparently 35 mph winds and 14 foot swells are making the seas a bit rough. Another issue holding the locals back is whether the crab are as good as many of the sports fishermen -- who have been able to catch crab since the beginning of the month -- say they are.

"All indications are that the resources are very healthy. The size of the crabs are large from the reports of the sports fisheries," says Wickliffe.

But as they have do in Washington state and Oregon, this season crab are being tested before allowing the boats to trap crab.

"We got called back because the quality was kind of weak, you know there were some areas that were questionable about the quality and they just wanted to make sure that the crabs were good," says fisherman Tim Estes.

Estes says there are always some areas where there are lower quality crab and fishermen avoid those to insure a quality catch. Alan Fairhurst the executive chef at Scoma's is convinced he'll be able to offer a quality meal, perhaps starting on Monday.

"Sports fishermen are telling us that the crab are coming in large and more importantly that they're coming in with a very dense meat pack," says Fairhurst.

Fishermen we spoke to are happy with the $1.75 price per pound set for this season, so all they are waiting for is the go ahead to begin the catch.

Last year crab fisherman only brought in a little over one million pounds of crab. That fell very far short of the almost five million crab they have brought in on an average over the past five years. So this year they are hoping they can get somewhere back to normal.


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