Dungeness crab season begins on the Washington coast tonight at midnight (January 24, 2013), and for hundreds of Washington crabbing families (including ours) this is the most important moment of our year. We have all spent months, if not years, preparing for this moment — rigging up crab pots, measuring lines, painting buoys, grinding rust off boats, painting boats, replacing boat parts — and it has all come with a cost. The price to invest in the crab fishery is not cheap. Between leasing or buying fishing permits, crab gear, and boat maintenance and repairs, we have all invested many many tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars. Our blood, sweat and tears go into these fishing operations (literally), and if we have one bad crabbing season we could lose everything we have worked so hard for.
We have essentially been preparing for this moment for the last year and a half and we now find ourselves at the point where we could begin to make money instead of borrowing and spending money. The excitement and the tension are indescribable.
The first “pick” (or “set”) of the season is an important one. The entire coastal dungeness crab population is scuttling around out there, so the first set will likely be the best. With every set the crab fleet makes from then on, the crab population grows smaller and smaller, and catches grow smaller and smaller, until it no longer remains cost-effective to continue fishing. This year there are quite a few boats crabbing in the same area, off of Westport, Washington, so there will be some competition to set pots in the prime fishing grounds.
I apologize for my lengthy explanation of the crab season (especially for those of you already familiar with the process) but I really want to drive home the point that this moment — the first day of the crab season — is a very important and very scary moment. I will be a nervous wreck for the next week, waiting to hear how the first trip went. Unfortunately, I could be waiting all week if Zed is out of cell range.
As a fisherman’s wife, it is necessary for the maintenance of my sanity to keep myself from worrying about things that are out of my control (boats, weather, danger, prices, etc..). Sometimes this works for me, but I have a feeling that this week my mind will be reeling out of control with questions like “what if he doesn’t catch any crab?” “what if it’s a horrible season?” “what if they get trapped in a storm?” “what if the (fill in the blank with any of the major parts we just installed) doesn’t work?” I’m already biting my fingernails and the season hasn’t even started yet!
All I can do at this point is to wish my husband — and all the other crabbers out there off the Washington coast tonight — prosperous and safe crabbing! And I will leave you with this message from the Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association:
FOR THOSE FISHERMEN HEADING OUT TO SEA, WE WANT YOU TO KNOW YOU WILL BE IN OUR HEARTS AND ON OUR MINDS.
AS YOU RETURN BACK TO WORK, RISKING YOUR LIVES TO SUPPORT YOUR FAMILIES AND TO HELP FEED THE WORLD, WE HOPE YOU KNOW JUST HOW MUCH “COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN HELP ALL OF US LIVE BETTER”
MAY THE WAVES AND THE WINDS OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN BE CALM, YOUR JOURNEYS SAFE AND YOUR HARVESTS PLENTIFUL.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU, KEEP YOU, AND RETURN YOU TO THOSE OF US LEFT BEHIND. BE SAFE… GOOD LUCK…