A dozen boats have pulled up about 100,000 pounds of Dungeness crab from a northern part of Kodiak since mid-May and a bigger chunk on the south end opens June 15.
That also will attract more boats, says Nat Nichols, area shellfish manager at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game at Kodiak.
“I think last year was almost 800,000 to 900,000 pounds out of our 1.5 million pound harvest, so over half.”
Dungie prices have reportedly plummeted by more than a dollar from last year’s Kodiak average of $2.65 a pound due to market hits from the coronavirus. That’s prompted many sales direct from the dock at $10 bucks a crab.
Southeast Alaska’s summer Dungeness fishery also opens on June 15 and several million pounds could come out of that fishery. Last year’s summer catch of 4.2 million pounds was the best in a decade for 200 permit holders. Southeast also has a smaller fall dungie opener.
At an average price to fishermen last year of $3.07 per pound, the combined dockside value in 2019 for a 5.3 million pound catch set a record at $16.3 million.
Back at Kodiak, the summer survey for Tanner crab also is getting underway aboard the state research vessel Resolution. Nichols says they’re excited to get back out on the water.
They’re tracking the largest recruitment of crab they’ve ever seen, estimated at 270 million Tanners in a time series that goes back to 1988.
“By the time we see them in the survey, they’re maybe the size of a quarter and about a year old, maybe year two even. So when we see them in the survey for the first time, it’s typically about four years until we see them at legal size in a survey. So using that timing, we first saw them in 2018, this group would be seen in a survey at a legal size in 2022 for a 2023 fishery.”
Lots of the crab appear to be growing faster than normal and Nichols says the leading edge could be ready sooner. Only male crabs of legal size can be retained for sale.
“ I think seeing a good chunk of them, or at least the leading edge of them legal in a 2021 survey. So that’s next summer for a 2022 fishery is not unlikely.”