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Recreational crab season opens
November 04, 2011, 03:10 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

Daily Journal file photo Pietro Parravano sells Dungeness crab for $3 a pound aboard the boat

Before commercial fishermen get a crack at hauling this season’s Dungeness crab from the ocean floor, the state Department of Fish and Game will open up coastal waters to recreational fishermen starting Saturday.

The commercial season starts Nov. 14, giving recreational fishermen more than a week to haul in the Dungeness without being surrounded by a "zoo” of commercial fishing vessels.

Already, big fishing boats from Alaska, Washington and Oregon are currently descending on Pillar Point Harbor in El Granada in anticipation of the commercial season’s start.

"Crab populations appear to be robust this year, especially in Central California, coming off a record harvest during the 2010-11 season,” DFG Senior Environmental Scientist Pete Kalvass wrote in a statement. "This could mean another great season for recreational crabbers.”

Capt. Tom Mattusch helms the Huli Cat at Pillar Point and has already booked the boat up for trips Saturday and Sunday.

He has been fishing and crabbing the area since 1990.

The Huli Cat will take 25 people out crabbing on nearly eight-hour trips this weekend.

"We tell our customers it is just like ‘Deadliest Catch,’ crabbing on the Huli Cat,” he said.

Mattusch is hoping the pots are full when pulled from the ocean floor.

"People get a thrill every time a crab pot gets pulled, the anticipation builds to see how many crabs are in the pot,” he said.

It should be a pleasant weekend for recreational fisherman, he said, considering they will not have to compete with the commercial boats.

"It will be nice to have no competition for the first week,” he told the Daily Journal yesterday.

Recreational fisherman can haul in six Dungeness a day and Mattusch has a deal with Princeton Seafood to cook, clean and crack the crabs for his customers for $2 a piece.

Meanwhile, commercial fisherman are looking forward to the start of their season starting Nov. 15.

Larry Collins is the captain of Autumn Gale out of San Francisco and is the president of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association.

He is less concerned with giving people the sporting opportunity to catch a few crabs and more concerned with filling the Gale with thousands of crab to sell at market.

Despite the state Department of Fish and Game’s assertion this will be a good crab season, Collins is not so sure.

"Until I splash the pots Nov. 14 and pull them Nov. 15, I have no idea,” Collins said.

The Department of Fish and Game cautions sport crabbers that traps and nets for Dungeness crab may not be set before 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 5.

Recreational crabbers may keep up to 10 Dungeness crabs per day, or six crabs if fishing from a party boat south of Mendocino County, according to the Department of Fish and Game. Dungeness crab may not be taken within San Francisco or San Pablo bays, which are considered important crab nursery areas.

The recreational size limit for Dungeness crab is five and three-quarter inches measured across the shell, directly in front of and excluding the lateral spines. Crab taken from party boats must measure at least six inches across.

Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.

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