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Dungeness Crab Season

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My wife and I LOVE Dungeness Crab, but here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, only frozen crab is readily available (at Wal-Mart of all places!). We're going to San Francisco in mid-March. Will fresh Dungeness still be available in local seafood shops and restaurants? We're thinking of having lunch at Swan's and can already taste that fresh crab! Thanks!

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  1. No, but there will be live crabs brought in from further north, like Washington.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      When specifically does the local season end?

      1. re: Ozumo

        I always understood crab season to end in SF/NorCal in May. Who knows now given warmer waters.

    2. Although the season lasts for eight months, many crabbers stop fishing after the second or third week, because most of the legal crabs have been taken. During the first week of the season crabbers may take as much as 25-pounds of legal crab in each pot. By the third or fourth week there is often no more than 3 or 4 pounds of legal crab per pot. By the first of next month there will be likely be very few crabbers working the pots. Don't count on high-quality fresh legal crabs from San Francisco much after the end of this month.

      1. Don't know if this is true but my mother always told us that fresh dungeness crabs were only available during months ending in -er which is basically from September to December. There's always fresh crab available in the Bay Area but not necessarily dungeness. So was this an old wive's tale or is my mom right - again?!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Dog Lover

          Sorry, Mom's got it wrong -- the California Dungeness season doesn't even start until mid-November. As explained above, although officially the season lasts until June, for all practical purposes, by the end of January the Dungeness you find in SF is from farther north (the season opens later and later the farther north on the Pacific Coast they're harvested). Dungeness is still the predominent crab available, it's just not local (nor necessarily fresh).

        2. There is a HUGE flavor difference between the crabs I ate in November/December and the ones I ate at crab feeds in the past few weeks. The crabs taken in the beginning of the season were so sweet and succulent. The crabs I ate recently at crab feeds -- probably frozen crab, definitely not fresh -- were stringy and tasteless. It's too bad -- most crab feeds are late in the season, but the best tasting crabs come in November/December.

          1. Yeah, I'm hearing a lot about crab feeds planned for March and beyond. Why do they plan it so late in the season? I guess maybe they're trying to avoid all the winter holidays. But still, doesn't make sense.

            3 Replies
            1. re: singleguychef

              Crab feeds are fund raisers. After the first of the year, the demand for dungeness crab drops off, thus the supply (for crab feeds) increases and the prices are not as influenced by supply and demand as early in the season.

              The crabs at crab feeds is often frozen, frozen crabs are less expensive, easier to handle than fresh live and fresh cooked.

              What started off as a way to raise funds using a "surplus commodity" has morphed into a commercial enterprise, and the surplus commodity is now a coveted valuable resource.

              1. re: Alan408

                wow, thanks for the background Alan. Very educational!

                1. re: Alan408

                  There's no surplus of Dungeness crab.

              2. FWIW, this Sunday, we bought $3.50/lb crab off the boat at Half Moon Bay (Pillar Point Harbor), slightly cheaper because they were headed back out to pull their pots (300 ft., 17 miles southwest of the harbor). We got a mix of jumbos (> 2 lbs) and regulars, a better mix than the first boat we looked at. The crab snobs at home likened our purchases to 'December crabs'. Call the harbormaster for who's selling what. If you're eating there, the fish store at the harbor steams 'em fresh.

                1. Ditto above about Pillar Piont. The crabs we got were great. Most oriental markets sell live crabs but buyer beware. Live does not equal fresh. When shellfish are starved for long periods of time they start breaking down their own muscle for energy. Live and kickin is what you want.
                  ps I love eating crab at Swan's Oyster Depot

                  1. greetings, a couple of weeks ago the vendor who comes the the local (Oakland) farmer's market had two size ranges for $4 or 4.50/lb and the 1.5# ones I got were still sweet-tasting.