It’s just over the halfway point for the fall season of Dungeness crab in most locations across Southeast Alaska, but with poor harvests from the summer, some fishermen are choosing to opt out of the fall season entirely.
Late July marked the end of a shorter-than-typical summer Dungeness crab season in Southeast Alaska after it was slashed around two weeks short by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game due to a lower-than-expected threshold for the season — only the third time in the last 20 years, according to Joseph Stratman, the lead crab biologist of Region I for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Though there is still time to hit the waters in search of Dungeness crabs — the season typically runs from early October through the end of November and in certain places until February — some fishermen are choosing to opt out due to poor harvests and prices from the summer.
According to Stratman, this year’s summer harvest clocked in around 1.28 million pounds — nearly 2 million pounds less that the 2021 summer season and half of the 10-year average harvest for Alaska’s summer season, even with more permit holders than in typical years.
And, the harvest isn’t the only thing coming in low this year — data indicate this summer’s fishery dropped around $10 million in value compared to last year as well, and at $3.77 million this summer, it was well below the 10-year average of $8.38 million.
That means for each pound this summer season year, fishermen got around $2.96, while last year got around $4.20 per pound — a $1.24 difference.
Steve Box, a Juneau-based Dungeness crab fisherman, said he decided to not participate in the fall season for a variety of reasons, the leading factor being the poor results he and other fishermen saw this summer. This is the first time he’s not fishing in the fall season in four years.
“From what I saw throughout the summer, it wasn’t looking good for fall,” he said.
Box said one of the indicators to tell if the fall season is going to be good or not is by looking at the amount of soft shell crabs caught in the summertime — the more softshells typically means a better fall season, he explained.
This summer season, however, he said he caught very few of any crabs, let alone softshell.
“The price dropped considerably,” Box said, adding a drop in value was another leading factor that influenced his decision to opt out of the season.
However, other Juneau Dungeness fishermen, like Charlie Blattner, are taking their chances.
On Monday afternoon Blattner was berthed at Aurora Harbor selling live Dungeness crabs he caught in the past few days around the Juneau area. Balttner said he decided to participate in the fall season after having an OK summer season, noting it was his second year partaking in the Dungeness crab fishery.
He said so far the fall harvest has been “hit or miss” and said it’s really a matter of being at the right place at the right time, though he said that’s been difficult for him because of the more extreme weather recently.
He said he plans on continuing the remainder of the season, which will end on Nov. 30, though some areas will remain open until February 28, 2023.