Commercial Dungeness crabbers have a full two-month summer and two-month fall season for most of Southeast Alaska again this year.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced this week the summer season would continue through August 15 and a fall season is planned for October and November. The season length is set based on the catch from the first week of fishing. Crabbing opened on June 15th.

Adam Messmer, the department’s shellfish assistant manager for Southeast, says the total season catch is projected to wind up at 2.89 million pounds and the quality of the catch has started off well.

“There’s a lot of people saying that there was really hard crab, full crab, not a lot of soft shell around, which is kindof an odd thing for this time of year, usually there’s at least a reasonable percentage of soft shell but it sounds like a lot of good, really high quality crab,” Messmer said.

Soft shell crab contains less meat and commands a lower price.

Photo courtesy of ADF&G

Photo courtesy of ADF&G

The projected total catch is above the two and quarter million pound threshold in state regulation, allowing for a full season. Last year’s harvest in both the summer and fall season totaled 3.24 million pounds.

Messmer said crabbing in some of southern Southeast got off to a slow start in the first week. “You know we had some extreme tides right after the season opened, which could’ve been part of it,” he speculated. “And these mild winters have kind of thrown the molting timing into kindof a loop which can have some effects on the fishery but it’s all anecdotal without having a Dungeness survey or a good stock assessment on the grounds.”

The catch in the first week of crabbing was 700,000 pounds, down from last year’s opening week. The number of permit holders out crabbing is also down slightly from last year, despite a strong price. The season began with processors paying an average of $3.05 a pound, just above the average from last year’s summer season.