Fish tales: Updates on Sonoma crab season and salmon numbers

California commercial crab season is scheduled to open officially at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 26. Apparently our coastal crabbers will start soaking their traps the day before at 6:01 a.m. – that is, those fishing south of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line. Commercial and recreational fishing for Dungeness crab north of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line is still forbidden, so ask your fish monger where theirs came from.

On Monday, Sonoma Market staff said to call the stores Sunday morning to find out if they have crab for your Easter feast at 996-3411, or Glen Ellen Village Market at 996-6728.

While crab lovers rejoice that the danger from neurotoxin is over, the crabbers say that their catches might be smaller due to “their mating and molting cycle,” according to state Sen. Mike McGuire.

Some of the crabbers are concerned about handling Dungeness crabs with a soft shell while they are shedding their tougher shell, while others are eager to get out and make some money to soften their financial hardships this winter, having missed the big sales for the holidays.

On the salmon side of the local fish card, things are looking fairly bleak as well.

The Golden Gate Salmon Association recently held its third annual dinner at Ramekins, this year honoring water conservationist and organic and biodynamic wine grower Phil Coturri. Previous honorees Sam Sebastiani and Mike Benziger were there to cheer Coturri on. Coturri said that all of the vineyards he manages have views of the bay, which he claims as his personal watershed. He stressed the importance of dry farming and taking care of the land and water, especially our rivers, which salmon need for spawning.

John McManus, executive director of the Salmon Association, pointed out that river water temperatures over 56 degrees kill salmon eggs.

The evening of speeches, auctions, and beef (not salmon) culminated in an annual salute to Jacky Douglas, 87-year-old female recreational salmon fishing captain whose boat is appropriately called “Wacky Jacky.” Other fishers told me she has more fishing outing bookings than any other captain.

Bottom line is that the salmon industry might have to put further controls on its hauls, just to preserve the species. While the rivers do have water this year, it is warmer than usual, thanks to El Niño. Since salmon leave the streams to mature in the ocean, and return “home” to spawn, and the water is too warm for the eggs to survive, fewer salmon babies are born and the fishers have fewer to catch and sell to stores and us, the consumers.

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