Fishermen less concerned about contaminated crab as commercial season nears

The Huli Cat sport fishing boat pulled into Pillar Point Harbor Tuesday afternoon with a haul of recreational dungeness crab that by all accounts was off the charts.

"This is day 4. We've had limits every single day. It is what makes people happy," said the skipper Tom Mattusch.

But that haul is for sports fishermen.

 Across the dock, commercial fisherman Porter McHenry was getting his boat ready. Commercial crab fishing is scheduled to start in these waters next week.

"A year goes by and you forget how much fun and pain it is," he said.

He and other crab fishermen are expecting a so-so season. The crab population they fear may be a little small.

"Recreational size limit is a half inch shorter than commercial. And there's a lot of crab on the edge. We"ll see. You won't know until we go fishing," said McHenry. 

But crab fishermen say the good news is it appears the season will not be slowed by concerns over domoic acid, a toxin found in test crabs that delayed the openings of two of the past three seasons.

The waters from San Francisco south have come up clean. 

Dungeness crab lovers say they can't wait.

"I'm looking forward to that. Hopefully the price will come down from $13 a pound," said Bob Junger of San Jose.

Crab fishing is also big business. In past years, fishermen can usually bring in more than 20 million pounds of crab worth some $67 million.

The local market will soak it up. We won't be shipping crab to maybe Seattle or Southern California as much. But the local market, there will be enough to keep us happy. 

The commercial crab fishing season is set to open next Thursday, November 15.