It’s finally Dungeness crab season. As usual, there was a bit of season-delaying drama to start things out, but a price has been set and the fishermen are busy. Things were tense here during negotiations, but it seems like the two week opening delay allowed the crabs to fatten up a bit. The crabs that have been arriving at the plant where I spend most of my days have been big, beautiful, and delicious. I got to spend a lovely sunny afternoon at Spud Point Marina in Bodega Bay this week, and it was so interesting to see how the unloading dock functions.
Almost every boat in the marina was loaded with crab pots. Fishermen will go out and set their pots with the intention of returning in a couple of days to bring in the full traps. Pots have been heavy and full. It is a great sign. The meat yield will typically increase as the weather grows colder and the season progresses. We are in for a great crab season.
The crabs are unloaded at various docks around the marina. Our little fellas will be offloaded at the Paisano Brothers dock. The dock is run by Richie Franceschi, a man with over 40 years on boats and on the docks.
The boats pull up to the dock where Richie and his crew will inspect the crabs and weigh them. As soon as the weight and condition of the load is recorded, a Department of Fish and Game landing tag is filled out and filed.
The crabs are held in common holding tanks after they are offloaded and logged. This makes it impossible to trace a specific crab back to a specific boat, but the method of catch is the same for all Dungeness crab that are landed. So, we need not worry too much about traceability back to the boat. Knowing that the pots are pulled from a fishery that is open and safe is the most important consideration.
Our crabs will be trucked to North Coast Fisheries in Santa Rosa where they will be cooked in large open baskets. Huge tanks of boiling salted water and giant vats of ice water are full of crab baskets 20 hours a day during crab season. I am the Quality Control Manager who paces around this madhouse making sure that the paperwork is compliant and the cooked crabs are tasty. They are.