The Golden king crab season that started on Feb. 18 — along with the Tanner season — was slated to conclude on Friday, March 4 in the East Central Area, but that deadline was rescinded when Alaska Department of Fish & Game biologists calculated that the guideline harvest limit would not be reached at that time.
“It’s been crazy,” ADF&G shellfish biologist Joe Stratman said Wednesday. “Weather has been an issue this year.”
The closure was rescinded partially because there was little effort made to catch king crab during a severe windstorm that featured freezing spray and single digit temperatures over the past weekend. Catch rates also started going down as the season went on, Stratman said.
The East Central Area is hardest fished in the area spanning from Cape Fanshaw north of Petersburg, west to Point Gardner and north to Sunset Island.
On Wednesday, Stratman said approximately 87 percent of the harvest limit has been caught, and expected that a closure announcement would be made on Thursday, March 3, or Friday, March 4.
“The department wants to make sure we reach the 260,000 pound GHL in East Central, but at the same time wants to avoid going way over,” Stratman said.
Stratman said as far as he can tell, catch rates are pretty much on par with the last couple crab seasons.
Dockside, crabbers were reportedly selling their king crab for approximately $6 per pound, a $2 increase from last year’s prices.
Tanner crab also saw a higher price dockside, with crabbers reportedly getting $2.85 per pound. That price is up nearly $1 from last year.
Crabbers saw good quality crab coming over the rails this season on both the tanner and king crab side.
“We have heard that the golden king crab quality is very good,” Stratman said. “We haven’t had the same issues with buyers rejecting crabs for soft shells (as they did last year). Both the Tanner and golden king crab quality was good.”
Tanner crab are not managed with a guideline harvest limit, so although the season has concluded, the total pounds harvested will not be known until March 9, when processors turn in fish tickets to the ADF&G.
What is known in the Tanner season is that 48 vessels registered to fish for the crabs, with 3,800 registered pots. With that level of crabber participation, the closure was known on opening day.
“After March 9, we’ll know how we did for Tanner harvest this year,” Stratman said.
At Petersburg Fisheries, Icicle Fleet Manager Randy Lantiegne said Tanner crab coming into the plant were good size. He estimated they were an average of 2.6 pounds.
via Petersburg Pilot.