Commercial fishermen are eager for their Dungeness crab season opener Thursday, Nov. 15, though many sport fishermen, who’ve been allowed to catch the prized crustaceans since Nov. 3, are reporting mixed reviews for the season so far.

“There’s been quite a bit of undersized crab for us so I don’t think it’ll be a big season,” said Frank Souza, a fisherman out of Half Moon Bay. “Crabs weighing 1.6 pounds are barely legal and we’ve been catching a lot of those. The average is usually 2 pounds and it should be lower this year.”

Souza is planning to set out on Wednesday in anticipation of the commercial season opener. Some fishermen might be selling crabs off their boats in Half Moon Bay’s Pillar Point Harbor as early as Thursday, but most won’t be back and ready to sell until Friday or Saturday. He expects off-the-boat prices to be about $7 per pound. Wholesale starts at $3.50 per pound and off-the-boat prices are usually twice as much.

Jim Delong, a longtime sport fisherman, reported similar results, but bad weather during the first several days of the season prevented him from heading out especially far and dropping crab traps in his usual spot. Still, he was hauling in the legal limit every day, which is 10 crabs for sport fishermen.

Commercial fisherman Jim Anderson, also a member of the Dungeness Crab Task Force, said the first week-plus of the sport season is only so revealing.

“It’s hard to tell when you talk to people putting occasional pods in a few areas,” he said.

But he’s feeling optimistic.

“There seems to be a nice quality of crab, they’re relatively full, an appropriate amount of meat, and have good flavor,” he said. “The biggest thing is the quality and everyone seems happy about that so far.”

Crabs tested for quality up north near Eureka, on the other hand, have not tested well in terms of quality, Anderson said, meaning they don’t contain a sufficient amount of meat. Anderson said crabs in that area do not yet have enough meat on them, likely because there are so many of them and not enough food to go around. But this is nothing out of the ordinary, he said, and in a matter of weeks or months those crabs should be ready to harvest.

The season opener has also been pushed back to December up north because crabs are still testing positive for domoic acid there. All crabs tested for the toxin between Bodega Bay and the Mexican border are clean.

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