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So when DOES the local crab season start in 2010?

I've searched this board and Googled elsewhere but all I can find is that generally it starts in mid-November, and last year the first day was November 15.

I'm coming down for a business trip (so the dates aren't flexible) November 13 - 16. I live in Seattle so I don't lack for opportunities to eat good crab, but I have a crab-deprived friend (she lives in New Mexico, AND her partner is highly allergic to shellfish) meeting me there, and I promised her at least one great fresh crab dinner. Did I speak too soon? It's going to KILL me if we just miss it by a day or two.

If they haven't set the season dates yet, anybody know when they will?

And while I'm on the subject...based on recommendations here, I'm thinking PPQ Dungeness Island for a Vietnamese-style preparation, and maybe Nettieā€™s Crab Shack for a basic, messy, primal, dismember-it-yourself steamed-crab-with-drawn-butter-and-bibs feast. Any other suggestions or better ideas?

Thanks, y'all!

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  1. Crab season in subject to the condition of the crab. In October the DFG starts testing the crab, they look for 25% yield.

    During the summer crab molt (lose their shells), they regrow their shells and then "fill up their new shell". Growth rates depend on the environment, (water temps/food). Recreational season opens first, then commercial. First weekend in November for recreational harvest, commercial opens up two weeks later.

    San Francisco's crab season is the first opener on the west coast. Heading north up the coast, seasons open up later. This spacing continues up to Alaska. Conversely, SF's season closes first (June) and Alaska last (August).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Alan408

      Good summary, Alan, but in practice it's a bit more complicated than that. Usually, for example, the availability of local crab is stalled for a few days because the fisherman are haggling over the price.

      Places like PPQ will have crab all year round from tanks. Even if you order it during crab season it won't necessarily be fresh-caught and/or local.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Regarding haggling over price, crabbers who sell to the big wholesalers may wait until they get a better price, but there are always out of the area boats who will "cross the line" and there are many commercial fishermen who do not sell to the big wholesalers. Based on my experience with commerical crabbing, the "haggling" is more of a media/news thing than what is actually happening.

        The out of the area boats come to the SF opener because it opens before their local opener. If they don't fish, they wasted several weeks time and thousands of dollars of fuel. The out of the area fishermen have their crab pots trucked to SF and pilot their boats down.

    2. While Alan is correct, they try to get the season open for Thanksgiving Crab. It's a sad year when we don't have fresh local crab for thanksgiving. Season runs through the winter.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bbulkow

        Yep. I can't remember a single thanksgiving where we didn't eat crab for lunch on Friday. Always bought from local suppliers.

      2. There are really three factors to consider: the date set by DFG to start the commercial season, the size of the local catch, and the haggling about wholesale price based upon financial considerations. The actual date on which local crab is available is governed by those factors. Just pray to St. Crabby and hope for the best.

        1. I had a great crab vendor who gave me this rule of thumb: "Crab season begins when the world series is over. Crab season ends when the baseball season begins." Not fully true but close enough.

          1. Thanks, y'all! That helps. I'll get my prayers and supplications going to St. Crabby, and pack my bib and cocktail fork!

            1 Reply
            1. re: MsMaryMc

              I've never been to Nettie's, but during the real crab season Woodhouse Fish Company does a great job sourcing local crab. One morning, we went when they opened around 11 AM. We had to wait for it, but soon enough a pickup truck pulled up outside, a food-grade garbage can full of fresh-caught crab got dragged into the kitchen, and then we each had a steaming crab in front of us within ten minutes. Sometimes it's hard to beat simple pleasures.

              If the real season isn't open yet, don't forget that you can go out on a charter boat with your friend and "fish" for crab. You'll come home with a half dozen crabs apiece, and eat so much of it that you'll wonder if you could possibly eat too much crab.

              Woodhouse Fish Company
              2073 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

            2. I just found out from California's Dept. of Fish & Game that 2010 commercial crab season is "scheduled" to begin November 15.
              Here's a link to DFG's website with the info.

              1 Reply
              1. re: EllieMcG

                YESSS! Thank you! We're there through the 16th...

              2. There's always live crabs even out of season. I don't know where they come from. Last week our local 99 Ranch has live crabs for $3.99 a lb.

                2 Replies
                1. re: PeterL

                  Those out of season crabs are brought in from out of state. Local crabs off the boat for me have always had more meat/crab fat that's also sweeter, with a shell full of tamale.

                  I'm no crab expert but my assumption is the local crabs are only in the crab pot for a day or two as opposed to non-local crabs which are being flown in and stored in tanks for days/weeks. The crabs in Ranch 99 or other places aren't being fed so the tamale is all "digested" and processed by the crab, plus there's the stresses of being in the tank as well as fighting other crabs. Local crabs aren't subjected to the same stress and have "full bellies" which makes for a better crab, in my opinion.

                  1. re: Bunson

                    Fresher is better with live crabs. The women at Alioto-Lazio are very forthright about their sourcing, and I don't bother shopping anywhere else. If there is local crab,they have it. Sometimes they have local and "long distance", and if so they'll give you a choice. Regarding the tomalley, it is the crabs hepatopancreatic organ,and does seem to suffer in taste after long storage, becoming very bitter. Since it is a sort of liver, it can contain certain toxins not present in the meat (e.g. domoic acid from red tide) so I don't generally eat it, but when presented in a salt and pepper fried fresh crab, I find it hard to resist,(especially since it is usually the last piece left.)

                    440 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA

                2. Latest word on commercial crab season. The SF processor wants to delay the season opener for a week, too many "soft crab".

                  That doesn't mean there will not be any commercial (retail) crab, it means the big processor will not be buying/selling crab. Many crabbers have "wholesale" permits, allowing them to sell direct to restaurants and retailers, some crabbers have "retail" permits allowing them to sell direct to consumers (shoppers). Commerical crabbers who do not have wholesale or retail permits must sell to the processors (wholesalers).

                  I read about the delay in the opener on the internet, and confirmed it with one commercial crabber.

                  FWIW, recreational crabbers are reporting an abundance of crab, on my trip (11/11) there were so many crab we were very selective. We probably threw back 30% of the jumbos because they were soft. 5 pots produced 70 crab. A soft crab hasn't filled out its claws/arms since it molted. We pulled our gear because of forecasted rough seas.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Alan408

                    Well, hell. I can get good crab later in Seattle, but my friend is here from New Mexico...not so easy for her. So I guess we'll be eating crab of unknown origin--because we ARE going to eat crab tonight. I'm sure it will be okay, at least.

                    Thanks for all the info and updates!

                    1. re: MsMaryMc

                      call the pillor point harbor dock. if they have boats selling crabs at the dock today, you can just head over there and grab a few.

                    2. re: Alan408

                      That actually sounds like amazing news. If the big commercial boats have to go back north without stealing all our crab, we might actually have good crab well through the winter.

                    3. any tips on where to get good live crab in half moon bay? prefer if it's straight off the boat!!!

                      5 Replies
                        1. re: wolfe

                          This was posted on one of the fishing forums:

                          Test pots have been put out at Bodega, off San Fran, and HMB. They are pulling them every couple days and cooking up the "catch" to see what the quality is. The "buyers" won't buy crab unless a certain level of quality is there. The commercials don't have the time to check each and every crab for softies like we do. There is expected to be some level of less than rock solid crab. So, until the buyers are satisfied that the quality is there, they are not buying crab. No buyers....... no sense in dropping pots.

                          According to Dennis (New Captain Pete sportfishing boat), it could be a thumbs up in a few days from the buyers...... or several days even weeks. Also........ Dennis is running crab trips and has pots out in deep water and has been averaging about 50 quality crab per pot. Dennis is running crab trips on the New Captain Pete til the commercial season opens when he "decks" for one of the commercial boats and runs his boat for sport crab trips on non-commercial days. So, my point is if you want to get a ride on a crab trip this week, get hold of Dennis and book a trip. I think the cost is $40 and he's been getting some real good quality crab.

                          1. re: baron45

                            Here's a newspaper report: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/...

                            There was another article from Eureka via the Contra Costa Times, which was confusing because it was poorly written...but it mentioned Dec 1st as a possible start date for commerical.

                              1. re: baron45

                                As I said on another thread.
                                It's always Lord willing and the crick don't rise.
                                wolfe on Nov 13, 2010 11:14AM