Kodiak Tanner crabs

There was some slim hope that a small Tanner crab fishery could occur in January for westward region crabbers, which includes Kodiak, Chignik and the South Peninsula.

The summer survey indicated there might be enough mature male crabs to sustain a 2021 fishery. But after crunching all the data, it was not meant to be. Crabbers are in a gap year between a 2013 Tanner year class that’s pretty much tapped out while awaiting a 2018 cohort that’s the biggest ever.

We’re fully between the two big groups of crab that we’ve been watching for the last couple years. So we had the 2013 group. Last year, we had a fishery on that group but they were coming up on seven years old at that point, so they were pretty much aging out of the population. And the 2018 group, it typically takes about four years to get them to legal size, so the expectation that a lot of them were going to be legal in 2020 was very low.”

Nat Nichols is area shellfish manager at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game office in Kodiak.

“And the upshot there is that this 2018 group is persisting, they seem to be surviving well. If they continue to do that, we could certainly see a meaningful chunk of that group getting legal next year, and then the year after that looks even better.” 

Nichols added that the 2018 recruits are very widespread.

“When we see these trends, they typically are not specific to just Kodiak or just Chignik, even the 2013 group. We saw that from Kodiak all the way out through False Pass, essentially. And that’s the same thing with this 2018 group. There’s been a good recruitment signal all the way out. And they seem to be growing well.”

Tanners at the South Pen near Sand Point and King Cove usually lag about one year behind, Nichols said. And he agreed that fewer cod fish throughout the westward region could account for the steady uptick in Tanners.

“I don’t think it can hurt. There’s just a lot fewer mouths out there trying to eat dinner grab right now.

Meanwhile, Kodiak just wrapped up its best Dungeness crab fishery in 30 years with a catch nearing 3 million pounds for 29 boats. At the Alaska Peninsula a fleet of 16 boats saw good hauls at 1.4 million pounds, and three boats took over a half million pounds at Chignik.

That added up to a total take of 2.13 million animals.

The one downer was the Dungeness price.  The crabs, which weigh just over two pounds on average, reportedly fetched $1.85 a pound at Kodiak and $1.75 further west, down from more than $3 in previous seasons.