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Crabbing prpeparation

Forklift driver John Sleutel estimates there must be about 8,000 crab pots at the Port of Chinook mooring basin Wednesday, some lashed securely on the decks of larger fishing boats, but most still stacked five-pots-high on pallets filling the parking areas.

Columbia crab fishermen can start placing their pots in the ocean Friday morning, but first they have to settle on a price with processors.

As of midafternoon Wednesday, the two groups had not yet agreed. Representatives of both sides were not available for comment Wednesday evening.

The Dungeness crab fishery along the whole Pacific Coast is off to an exceptionally late start this season. The season typically starts around Dec. 1, but the crab had not put on enough meat to allow a harvest. That delay already has cost the industry the Christmas season, its most lucrative sales period.

Nevertheless, thousands of crab pots are stacked on docks at lower river docks at Chinook and Ilwaco awaiting placement in the sea. Unless the weather stops them from getting out, boats will work around the clock until all the pots are on the ocean bottom, luring crabs.

Washington permits allow crabbers to fish either 300 or 500 pots; Oregon allows the same, but also adds a 200-pot permit. So some of the bigger boats may be setting as many as 1,000 pots if they crab in both states. If the two sides can settle in time, opening day — when pots can be checked for crab — is scheduled for Monday.

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