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Nov 4, 2005 04:47 PM

Dungeness crab season?

  • d

Someone mentioned in an earlier post today that it was nearly upon us. When is it? And what exactly does it mean that the crabs are "in season" since I've seen them in the store at other times of year.

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  1. d
    Das Ubergeek

    Dungeness crab season runs pretty much right over the holidays. As for what "season" is, it's when the crabs are the most plentiful, the cheapest, and the best-tasting.

    You can buy cherries in the grocery store in February, but they won't be very tasty and they'll be very expensive -- cherry season is May to July.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Das Ubergeek

      I had cherries from roadside stands in CA last May and they were the best cherries I have EVER had. I live on east coast.

      1. re: Sweet Pea

        How long should I boil a 2.5lbs dungeness carb?

        1. re: Angela

          15 to 20 minutes in salted water (water should taste like sea water).

    2. I live in central coast CA and the commercial crab season around here opens in mid-November, I think around the 15th this year. I think it technically closes around the end of June.

      The commercial season in WA has already opened, so the local stuff being sold right now is probably from there. I don't know about Oregon...

      I only buy crab directly off the commercial fishing boats for freshness and value, so they were most plentiful and affordable from about December to March/April last year.

      We were eating them so much that I got kind of sick of them, but my craving has been building and I want to have another meal like that pictured below...we are counting down the days...

      Image: http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

      12 Replies
      1. re: Carb Lover
        Bob Huenemann

        Sick of crab, or sick of butter?

        1. re: Bob Huenemann

          No, it was indeed the crab...and maybe crab "butter"...I never get tired of butter butter.

          BTW, we soon realized that these local Dungeness were so sweet and succulent that they didn't need that side bowl of butter.

          1. re: Carb Lover

            You guys are making me jealous - living near Montreal is not very crab friendly. Many places carry live dungeness year-round, but they run about $20-25/crab and like you mention, the further from the boats, the less flavor.
            My tastes run more towards blues (probably 'cause I never had truly fresh dungeness), but they are even harder to get here. Chinatown has a bushel every once in a while, and they're cheap, but they're also very small.
            There is a snow-crab fishery here in Quebec, but again, I prefer blues or Dungeness.
            Think I'll hitchhike to the west coast for off-the-boat crab!

        2. re: Carb Lover

          Sick of crab, how can one be sick of crab, there are so many way to make it. From the simple boil to salt and pepper crab with steamed in a bamboo steamer over ming bean noodles. I can hardly wait for crab season.

          I was told that crabs will lose weigth and taste the longer they are out the ocean. So the longer it has to travel to you table the more flavor, meat and taste it will lose.

          Now where do you get you crabs off the boats. I like to get some for my crab boil as soon as the season starts.

          If I finally learn to the use my camera I will post some of the dishes I have in mind.

          1. re: yimster

            Yeah, hard to believe that it's possible to get sick of Dungeness, but I had reached my limit by the latter part of the season. Mostly steamed them and enjoyed them as is though. Same goes for tomatoes. I hoard them in the beginning and middle of the season and then can't even look at them by the end. This is the fun of eating w/ the seasons though since something new is there when something else is tapering off...

            We got live crab off the docks 3 min. from our house in Santa Cruz. Too easy. Will be interesting to see what the starting prices will be. Fluctuated btwn. $3-4.50/lb last year. Not as cheap as 99 Ranch can be, but much better quality and no middle man. Hope to see some of your and others' Dungeness recipes on Home Cooking to sustain me through the season.

          2. re: Carb Lover

            I can understand getting tired of it. The crab most readily available to me is blue crab (but oddly my supermarket has had Dungeness crab clusters ..no body, all summer, I'm betting it comes in frozen and it is labled as being from Calif). It is so rich I just bottomed out on crab cakes, cram imperial etc. I'll have one more chance this month to get fresh blue crabmeat and think I might be willing to wait 'til spring and the truck comes back.

            1. re: Carb Lover

              I do not think Washington's commercial season is open.

              The SF area is the usually the first to open. The season is "decided by the biology of crab". The crabs north of the SF area currently have soft shells, the season will not open until their shells harden.

              The season closes (in the SF area) around June, to let the crabs spawn, after spawning, the crabs molt. Their shells do not harden until late October. Water temp has something to do with crab's biology. Northern waters are colder, though with this year's Japan current huging the north coast, their waters may be warmer.

              Because CA's season opens first, commercial crabbers from Oregon and Washington harvest SF area crabs often leading to a glut/waste. The non-local commercial crabbers follow the season openers going north.

              1. re: Alan408

                Yes, you and Ruth are right on this. I now remember all the talk about crabbers from the north descending when the season opens. With all this talk, I can hardly wait for the 15th to arrive!!

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  The live ones in the markets now are from Canada. Cheaper, yes, but not nearly as tasty.

                2. re: Alan408

                  I'm pretty sure the Washington season opened on October 1st. We've already had our Dungeness festival in Anacortes.

                3. re: Carb Lover

                  Oregon Dungeness season usually lasts from Dec. 1 to Aug. 14, but the opening can be delayed if the crab quality is poor. Test crabs have proven plump enough to give Oregon crews hope that the lucrative Dungeness crab season will begin on the traditional date, Dec. 1.

                  1. re: Carb Lover

                    I grew up crabbing almost every weekend here in Oregon and we'd have them cooked on the dock, then bring them home and pick them. Yeah, I got pretty sick of them, and just started eating them again in my 40s.

                    It is possible to get too much dungeness, at least as a kid.

                    Haven't yet hit too much lobster, and I really appreciated the difference in blue crab when I went back East a couple of years ago.

                  2. Just to clarify, the range of the Dungeness crab extends all the way from central California to Alaska, and the season varies depending on locale -- generally the farther north you go, the later the season starts and ends (this is related to the timing of the crabs' molt in different temperature zones). You can buy Dungeness almost all year round, but most of the time it will be either frozen or shipped in fresh/live over what can be fairly long distances. Also, the quality and quantity of the crab diminishes as the season progresses in each region -- in the Bay Area, for example, the local crab is best and most abundant from the beginning of the season through January, even though technically the season lasts through June.

                    In many SF area households -- including mine -- Dungeness crab is a traditional Christmas Eve meal.

                    1. In San Francisco the season starts November 5.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: cornflower

                        That is recreational, in other words if you have a fishing license, you can take crab for yourself. The commercial season starts November 15.

                      2. n
                        Niki Rothman

                        About a week ago some friends and I got some huge live Dungeness crabs out of the tank at a Chinese fish store on Clement st. in SF. We boiled them, laid out the newspapers, melted the butter, and had some of the best cracked crab I have ever put in my mouth. So go for it!