SAN FRANCISCO, California – The long awaited Dungeness crab season for commercial fishermen finally kicks off Wednesday in the Bay Area. Commercial crabbers will be able to head to a prime fishing area stretching from Pescadero to the Mendocino-Sonoma County Line.
“We have been delayed here due to the presence of whales,” said John Barnett, owner of the crabbing boat, The Amigo, moored at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. California Fish and Wildlife has pushed back the Dungeness Crab season to Dec. 29 to give the area’s whales more time to leave the fishing grounds, and now they’re gone.
“We’re ready to go fishing,” Barnett said.
Barnett, who is also the president of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association, spent three times on Tuesday checking all his gear before his crew of two deckhands left on Wednesday. His boat holds about 500,000 pounds of crabs. Fish markets across the region are eagerly awaiting the transport of the Bay Area‘s precious shellfish tomorrow.
“It will definitely help the public get more crabs in grocery stores or in markets,” Barnett said.
Area restaurants like Scoma’s, San Francisco’s seafood destination, are also eagerly awaiting the start of the season locally.
“So that we can buy fresh, local, near here crabs, hopefully plentiful, we’ll get the best crabs we can in the market, and we’ll pay a more reasonable price for them, too,” said Gordon Drysdale, manager. from the kitchen at Scoma’s at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
Supply chain issues have driven up the price of Dungeness crab in the region, which restaurants like Scoma say have had to purchase in other parts of the state.
“That big, beautiful bowl of crab that you just saw over there, we’re basically giving it away here,” said Drysdale.
Still Drysdale says it’s the fisherman who deserved the right to be really cranky about the late start to this year.
“Unfortunately for them, they missed Thanksgiving and Christmas, so they’re sort of running out of stick.”
In a good season, Barnett says his deckhands can earn around $ 15,000 for a month and a half of work. Barnett, meanwhile, says he could earn around $ 50,000. The whole crew is now hoping to catch up.
“If you fish all season you will have wasted a few weeks,” Barnett said.
Barnett says many commercial crabbers waste no time getting started, and many will literally take to sea once midnight strikes.