The year 2010 is no exception. The season opened officially at midnight, but now fishermen have concerns about meat quality. They describe this as one of the most potentially bountiful harvests in memory, but because the Dungeness crabs just recently molted, the fishermen and wholesalers worry about meat filling the shells.
"From what I've been hearing, there's a lot of crabs in the ocean, and I guess there's not quite enough food for them," said fisherman Rich Fitzpatrick.
"We're looking for a 25 percent ratio of meat to body weight," said Mike Lucas, who runs the North Coast Fish Company, a wholesaler in Santa Rosa.
Monday, fishermen from Half Moon Bay, San Francisco, and Bodega Bay brought their early morning hauls to Lucas, who has spent the day cooking, picking, and weighing them. At less than 25 percent, fishermen do not want to bring the crabs to market.
"It's a real issue," said Half Moon Bay fisherman Jim Anderson. "We cooked some crabs three days ago and after we cooked them and opened up we were upset about the amount of crab butter, we were upset at how full some of the crabs were, and how some of the legs up in the pincher were not as full as crab meat."
"Bad crabs with little meat would hurt our reputation," said Tony Anello, who fishes out of Bodega Harbor. "You can't send crab like that to stores without a backlash."
By early Monday evening, Lucas reported back to ABC7 with the final number -- 27 percent ratio of meat to shell, which turns out to be quite good. Crab season in San Francisco has begun.
For Monday, the wholesale price for Dungeness crabs stands at $1.75 per pound.