The crabbing season is set to open on time Dec. 1, and coastal crabbers are hoping for another big year.
"Fishermen are always optimistic. If you're not optimistic, you can't be a fisherman," said Dale Beasley, president of Columbia River Fishermen's Association in Ilwaco.
Heather Reed, coastal marine resources policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said this year's season will open on time south of Klipsan Beach, which is about 14 miles north of the Oregon border. Reed said regions north of Klipsan will open to crabbing in December.
According to Reed, crabs have grown big enough to open the commercial season, but will tend to be smaller than last year. This month, crabs tested by state officials at Long Beach averaged just over 23 percent meat, which is the threshold to start the season. In 2009, Reed said crabs tested as high as 27 percent in October.
Last year, Oregon crabbers hauled in 23.1 million pounds of crab, doubling the seasonal average and pumping $44.5 million into coastal communities, according to the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. In the first month of the season, crabbers took in 15.6 million pounds.
The crab commission and processors are expected to meet this weekend to negotiate prices for this year. Low prices in California will likely mean low prices for Oregon crabbers, but the crabs should be abundant, Beasley said, adding "It should be a good season, all things considered."
Dean Ellsworth, who fishes on the Nola K boat out of Chinook, said he's been busy tightening and welding crab pots and getting his boat ready. Last year, his four-person crew hauled in more than 200,000 pounds of crab, he said.
It's too early to tell how good this season will be, said Ellsworth, who's been fishing since 1972.
"It takes a lot of expense to get prepared again," he said.