Commercial crab season begins at midnight

The beginning of commercial crab fishing season begins at midnight Tuesday.

Crabbers loaded their boats with crab pots and headed out to drop them in the ocean,

At midnight they can legally pull them back up, and head to shore with the catch of the day.

"We are very excited that we are starting on time and getting the gear out today," said veteran crab fisherman Larry Collins.

While crab fishermen won't know until they get out there, preliminary indications are this could be a good season. The sport fishing season opened last week.

"From what I hear from the sport guys the crab are big and beautiful," said Collins. This year's enthusiasm is far different than the emotions of last year.

In 2015 ocean temperatures rose 8-10 degrees which led to massive algae blooms contaminating crab with the toxin domoic acid. Authorities closed the fishing season until March.

That meant no fresh local crab for Thanksgiving or Christmas last year, a big blow and a job killer for a $90 million local industry, 

"I stepped aside from it last year because of all the trouble last season. Feels good to be back in the mix of things," said deck hand Anthony Rayford.

This year, traces of domoic acid have forced authorities to bar commercial crabbers from fishing between Point Reyes and the Sonoma-Mendocino County line - at least for now.

But that leaves plenty of areas that received a clean bill of health.

Seafood restaurants say out with the crab from Washington, and in with the local catch.

"It boosts business. People hear about the fresh local crab and come down and buy crab from the stands. It was very disappointing last year" said seafood restaurant owner Tom LaTorre.

The price of crab for consumers is still uncertain. But those in the industry say expect to pay anywhere from $7 to $9 a pound in grocery stores.