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When does crab season start?

Is there supposed to be a good harvest this year?

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  1. Usually a little before Thanksgiving. Hard to say if it'll be good or not. When the season opens there's usually news from the dept of Fish and Game and the commercial fishermen (about the whole sale price, etc) and if it looks good.

    1. Historically, the median date has been about Nov. 15. I don't believe DFG calls it for the commercial side. The Pacific Fisheries Council -- http://www.pcouncil.org/ -- should be announcing something pretty soon.

      This year, just for once, I'm going to Princeton Harbor with a big ice chest and a big wallet. And coming home to a big pot of boiling water. Not to say that there's anything wrong with getting them from R99. But just once I'll go the full nine yards to celebrate the opener.

      Sushi Monster

      31 Replies
      1. re: Sushi Monster

        I already saw several trucks carrying crab pots loading up the boats last week. They are definitely getting ready. Should just be 2-3 weeks from now.

          1. re: chemchef

            Take 92 W till you end up in Half Moon Bay, right on Highway 1. Drive about 10 mins and the pier will be on your left, past a parking lot and complex where Princeton Seafood restaurant is (with their own slightly ovepriced fish shop in the back, but a great resource if you want to pay a nominal fee, like $5, to descale and filet a whole 20 lb fish from the docks).

            1. re: K K

              When can you start going there for crab and what's the best time of day to go?

              1. re: mofo313

                The sport Dungeness crab season opens on November 3rd so you can hop on a party boat and get your limit of 6 per person. But the commercial season likely starts 2 weeks later (if the crabbers get their desired price and don't go on strike).

                  1. re: uvahustla

                    In our area, the DFG says the Dungeness sportsfishing season ends on Monday June 30, 2008. However, the commercial boats take so many crabs when their season starts that there's hardly any left by January.

            2. re: Sushi Monster

              I've posted this before, the one time I brought an ice chest, the crabbers told me that ice might kill the live crabs, so if you're going to keep them alive for cooking later the same day, don't use ice in your ice chest. I've found the ice chest with wheels and a high handle, like airport luggage, works quite nice when buying directly from the boats at Princeton Harbor.

              When you buy larger quantities, often the crabbers will toss in an extra crab or two for free, usually smaller ones they can't easily sell. Once, one crabber gave us so many free crabs with the ones we wanted that we literally could not finish them all at our crab party.

              1. re: Benny Choi

                So basically I go to this pier with a cooler in mid november and I can fill it up right off the boats? Are their prices similar to what you'd find in stores ($6-$8/lb)?

                1. re: mofo313

                  In the past, prices have been in the $4/lb range for live (not cooked or cleaned) crab. More expensive than the rock-bottom prices you often see in Chinatown during the peak of the season, but you're supporting local fisherman and getting it as fresh as can be.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    The poster will be supporting local (Half Moon Bay) fishermen. Who do you think think the Chinatown crabs come from, if not local (San Francisco) fishermen? They are dropped off just after daybreak by pickup trucks coming directly from the Wharf. It'll be the same elapsed time between when they come out of the water and when they are put on the dinner table.

                    1. re: Xiao Yang

                      Actually the crabs in Chinatown come from a variety of sources, not all local, depending on the time of year. The trucks from the wharf are often the wholesalers.

                      1. re: Xiao Yang

                        In addition to what Melanie said, you're supporting the fisherman when you buy retail from them, instead of paying a retailer, who bought it from a wholesaler/distributor, who paid the fisherman half (or less -- historically it's been under $2/lb.) the retail price.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          In addition to directly supporting the fishermen, it's just a cool experience, especially with out of town guests in tow, to walk right up to a boat and buy direct from the guys who clearly worked very hard to bring in the crabs themselves. $4/lbs cash, with the possibility an extra crab or two when buying a larger quantity, is totally worth it.

                          1. re: Benny Choi

                            I'm way past being cool, and on a fixed income can't afford to treat the marketplace as a charity. From what I've heard, when you buy directly from the boats you end up paying MORE than the going retail price fot the privilege (not to mention burning gas to get there).

                            1. re: Xiao Yang

                              Well, if you're Chinese and you can communicate well enough to be sure you aren't getting yesterday's starved crabs or worse, then you'll do fine. If you're a white potato like me, sometimes you get good crab and sometimes you don't; the boats are a more reliable bet for me.

                              1. re: Xiao Yang

                                Some people spend money on local crab, some people spend money on trips to Shanghai. To each his/her own.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Or one can go to Shanghai and spend money on local Shanghai (Dazha) crab (which also happens to be in high season right now).....

                    2. re: Benny Choi

                      Ok, I'm looking at Google Maps, satellite view. Do we go to the boat docks or further up where it looks like there's an actual pier?

                      1. re: chemchef

                        You can go down directly to the boats on the dock. You will see the harbor master building on the right hand side and they have a board showing which boats have seafood for sale and which dock/berth they are located.

                        1. re: baron45

                          When crab season gets started, you just follow the crowd - you'll see plenty of people going to and from the piers.

                          You can either buy directly from the boats or walk to the very end of the pier where there is one processor with huge bins of live crabs.

                          1. re: Benny Choi

                            I'm assuming I could go on a weekend morning and pick some up without a problem? Are they going all day?

                            1. re: mofo313

                              I think you can actually call the harbormaster to check rough availability; the number is in the link baron45 posted. Of course, don't waste their time if you're not positive you'll be headed down!

                              1. re: SteveG

                                You can also call the FishFone (it is on that website baron45 linked to, but on a different page) at 650-726-8724--they pre-record a message (at least on the weekends--not sure about during the week) saying what fish and crab types are available on the docks, so you don't have to waste anyone's time (except maybe your own, if there isn't any crab!).

                        2. re: chemchef

                          could you put up the link for the map?

                              1. re: baron45

                                That site has a great map! And here's a locator link: ... or maybe not!

                        3. re: Sushi Monster

                          good call, Sushi Monster. I live in pacifica and drive down the coast as often as i can to Princeton when crabs are available. Early in the season is best and biggest. Also, you can buy salmon off the boats. And if you're feeling a bit peckish you could do a whole lot worse that the chowder and fish and chips at barbara's fish trap. You can get a pretty good brew across the street.

                          1. re: chuckl

                            Thanks for the tips....really just wish the season was here already.

                            Here's a link to Princeton if anyone else is unfamiliar with it (I had no idea)

                            http://www.princetonseafood.com/index...

                        4. Any body know the deal with local crabs & mercury? Apparently the Bay Area is highly contaminated from gold rush era quicksilver among other modern industrial pollutants. Is crab one of those things that is too small / short life to be a concern?

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            For dungeoness, the bay is protected as a breeding ground and even individuals can't take that species of crab from the bay. By the time they're an edible size in the ocean, I imagine they've molted out some of the contamination they may have gotten as wee baby crabs in the bay.

                            Crab isn't mercury free, but it's much better than lobster or tuna:

                            Fish Average Detected range (PPM)
                            Tuna (fresh or frozen) 0.32 ND-1.30
                            Lobster Northern (American) 0.31 0.05-1.31
                            Crab Dungeness 0.18 0.02-0.48

                            http://www.perinatology.com/exposures...

                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                              Most crabs are caught out side of the bay waters, some as far as Canada and Alaska. Crabs that are caught on the piers off of Berkeley or around Golden Gate bridge are the ones you want to stay away from.

                              1. re: theSauce

                                "Stay away" is right, especially since it's illegal not only to catch crabs in SF Bay but also to have crabs that were caught in SF Bay in your possession.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Yes "stay away"! Especially since the oil/fuel spill. Even if you're willing to chance it with the laws, you don't want to eat anything coming out of this water.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    It's not illegal to catch crabs in the bay; however, it is illegal to catch Dungeness crabs in the bay. From the DF&G website:

                                    All crabs of the genus Cancer except Dungeness crabs, but including: yellow crabs, rock crabs, red crabs, and slender crabs are open all year with a limit of 35 crabs. Minimum size is four inches measured by the shortest distance through the body, from edge of shell to edge of shell at the widest part. No undersize crabs may be placed in any type of receiver, kept on the person or retained in any person's possession or under his direct control; all crabs shall be measured immediately and any undersize crabs shall be released immediately into the water.

                                    1. re: baron45

                                      Good point. Although since other crabs don't have a season, when you're talking about crab season, you're talking about Dungeness.

                                      I still wouldn't eat them -- crabs are scavenging bottom feeders, and there are too many contaminents and other yucky stuff in the Bay for my liking.

                              2. Is there supposed to be a good harvest this year?

                                No. Crabs often show up as bycatch in the trawl nets, so far this year, not many are showing up.

                                1. Seconding Alan408's report, we soaked overnight on Saturday just off Pacifica and got a dozen crabs, way below the 2 dozen we got on opening day last year.

                                  Sigh,

                                  Pancho

                                  1. My boyfriends boat gets here this Friday! :) I think it starts the 13th this year.

                                    1. When I was a kid, the local crab season started in October. Has over-fishing pushed it back, or is something else going on?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                        Perhaps climate change. Cherish the experiences you've had. I have been reading Diana Kennedy's My Mexico... as well as various books describing Life in Mexico throughout the last 2 centuries... and its like reading a history of the effects of climate change (its estimated that Mexico has lost more than 90% of its trees & wild vegetation in the last 500 years... with a big chunk happening in the last 100 years). And while... I have a feeling that global warming is going to have its biggest effect in the sub-tropics... I wouldn't be surprised if California looks much different in 100 years... with much of Southern California becoming unliveable (no more need for Beat L.A. chants... huh?)

                                      2. This would seem to be, finally, the definitive date: SF Chron today reports the commercial crab opener will indeed be right on time, Thu. Nov. 15. That was in Stienstra's column this morning. Unclear if that's the first day the boats can go out or if they can drop traps Wed. I wouldn't go out to Princeton Thursday without making a call first.

                                        This is going to be a good year, if early reports from the sport season are an indicator. Can't wait. Of course, there could always be a replay of the showdown a couple years back between the boats and the wholesalers over the wholesale price. That didn't keep the large out-of-state boats from running here (while they wait for their own season to start up north) but it did keep most of the HMB fleet in the harbor for a while.

                                        Sushi Monster
                                        http://www.emeraldlake.com/sushilist....

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. See thread on SFBay oil spill and crabs, fish, flock, and fauna in Food Media and News Board.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: sarvey

                                            Here's the link for anyone interested
                                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/458552

                                            Well, Xiao Yang, I was wondering where you where. I'm a little slow on the uptake at times. Thought you were stranded on an iceberg in Greenland.

                                          2. Here is a fairly recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle...

                                            http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                                            1. There was an interesting article Thursday on the Outdoors page of the Chronicle Sporting Green about crabbing and the prospects for this year.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. The season is looking pretty bad this year. The commercial guys have been putting out test pots and getting almost nothing- not a good sign before the season has even started. The fish and game guys have also reported that test pots aren't looking good at all. Add in the oil spill and we could be looking at some seriously expensive and scarce crab.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: AKmac

                                                  I was on a party boat earlier this week (before the oil spill) and the captain had his crab pots in about 140' of water about 10 miles northwest of the GG Bridge. The pots were averging 5-7 crabs each with a couple of them with 15 +/-. They had their pots in shallower water opening weekend with poor results so they moved them to the deeper waters further out and scores improved. In any case, the crab tasted very good.

                                                2. The Chronicle reports that crab season has been postponed indefinitely due to the oil spill.

                                                  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Nina

                                                    From what I understand, commercial crabbers can't vote to close anything with regards to sportsfishing. I guess they can vote, but it wouldn't make a difference. Sportsfishing is governed by the CA Dept of Fish & Game.

                                                    1. re: baron45

                                                      Commercial crab fishermen can decline the wholesale price offered/negotiated by wholesale fish seller which effectively shuts down or delays any crab coming in. I have no idea how the price is set but I'm guessing by the respective associations.

                                                    2. re: Nina

                                                      aww man...I was so looking forward to post Thankgiving Crab.

                                                      1. re: nicedragonboy

                                                        Yeah that was a real letdown, hopefully it's not too long before they can get things up & running again.