SAN FRANCISCO - The long-awaited Dungeness crab season for commercial fisherman, is finally kicking off Wednesday in the Bay Area. Commercial crabbers will be able to head out into a prime fishing zone stretching from Pescadero to the Mendocino-Sonoma County line.
"We've been delayed here because of the whales being present," said John Barnett who owns the crabbing boat, The Amigo, docked at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. California Fish and Wildlife pushed the Dungeness crab season back to Dec. 29 to give whales in the area more time to leave the fishing grounds, and now they’re gone.
"We're ready to go fishing," said Barnett.
Barnett, who is also the president of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association, spent Tuesday triple checking all his gear and equipment before his crew of two deckhands set off on Wednesday. His boat holds around 500 thousand pounds of crabs. Area fish markets are eagerly awaiting tomorrow's haul of the Bay Area’s treasured crustacean.
"It will definitely help the public get more crabs in the grocery stores or in the markets," said Barnett.
Area restaurants, like San Francisco seafood destination, Scoma's, are also looking forward to the start of the season locally.
"To be able to buy, fresh, local, close to here, hopefully abundant crabs will mean that we get the best possible crabs from the market, and also we’re paying a more reasonable price for it," said Gordon Drysdale, director of cuisine at Scoma's in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf.
Supply chain issues have been driving up the price of Dungeness crab in the area, which restaurants like Scoma's say they’ve had to purchase from other areas of the state.
"That big beautiful bowl of crab that you just saw over there, we’re basically giving away here," said Drysdale.
Still Drysdale says it’s the fisherman who have earned the right to be truly crabby about this year’s late start.
"Sadly for them, they’ve missed both Thanksgiving and Christmas, so they’re kind of getting the short of the end of the stick."
In a good season Barnett says his deckhands may pull in around $15,000 for a month and a half’s work. Barnett, meanwhile, says he may earn around $50,000. The whole crew, is now hoping to play catchup.
"If you fish the whole season, you will have lost a couple of weeks," said Barnett.
Barnett says that many commercial crabbers waste no time in getting started, and that plenty of them will literally head out to sea once the clock strikes midnight.