Fishermen hope for better crab season

By Steve Estes

Local commercial fishermen have begun to sink their stone crabs in anticipation of Tuesday’s opening of the season for 2013.

“Everybody is hoping for a good season, but we won’t really know anything until mid-week next week,” said Bobby Holloway, owner of Fanci Seafood fish house on Cudjoe Key.

He said he expects a good catch on opening day, just like most others, but “We need to see what the second, third days and following week brings.”

The current lobster season has been good to commercial fishermen with Chinese buyers in town jacking up the price to the boats to near record levels. Coupled with a good harvest, the commercial fishing industry has rebounded somewhat from the really sad season of a year ago.

That run hasn’t necessarily translated as well for local fish houses, said Holloway, because the smaller ones can’t compete with waterfront facilities where the Chinese have been three times as much to the boats as the wholesale operations can afford.

There won’t be Chinese buyers for the stone crab market, however, so the income can be spread a little more equitably among all the commercial fishing enterprises.

“We won’t see crab prices opening at what they were last year at closing,” said Holloway.

The price to the boat last year ended at $11 per pound for medium size claws.

“Once we get a good handle on what the catch will be early on we’ll have a better idea what the price will be for the boats,” said Holloway.

He said too many times people set their hopes on the first pull of the season.

“We saw last year how wrong that can be,” he said.

Last year’s dismal lobster season was followed by an equally dismal stone crab season with catch weights about 25 percent below normal.

This year’s lobster season has thus far been far better than last year, which, Holloway says, raises the spirits of the industry going into crab season

“We’re all a little cautious this year. We might get a great first catch, a great first week, and then it will disappear on us like it did last year,” he said. “I want to wait and see this year before we make any predictions on the kind of season we’ll have.”

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