Alaskan Fishing 101

ALASKAN CRAB FISHING 101
• DEADLIEST CATCH boats follows 2 crab seasons: red king crab and opilio crab.

• Red king crabs are the largest crab species, weighing an average of six to 10 pounds (with the record female and male weighing 10.5 and 24 pounds, respectively. The male’s leg span was nearly five feet across). Opilio crabs weigh an average of one to three pounds.

• At $4.50 per pound (up from $3.90 last year), fishermen can make between $27 and $45 for each red king crab they catch. At about $1.70 per pound (up from $1.50 last year), an average opilio crab can fetch $1.70 to $5.10.

• King crab season kicks off the same date each year: October 15. While boats are also legally allowed to catch opilio in October, due to biological issues and market demand, most crews wait until January to fish their quota.

• This season, around 80 boats headed out to sea to fish their share of crab, down from over 250 just two years ago (prior to rationalization).

• This year, the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) was 18.5 million pounds for Bering Sea red king crab and 55 million pounds for opilio crab. Per rationalization guidelines, each boat in the fleet was given a predetermined quota to catch.

• The crab boats range in size from 58′ to 165′ (most are about 120′); each crew consists of a captain and three to nine deckhands.

• The crabs are caught in 600-800 pound metal pots that are baited with ground herring, sardines or cod before they are dropped 400 feet below the surface.

• Since crabs don’t appear on radar or migrate in the same pattern each year, captains rely on their experience and intuition to find the best locations to fish.

• Adult king crabs are seldom found coexisting with the opposite sex, even though their habitats may overlap.

• Fishermen are allowed to harvest only adult male crab. All females and juveniles must be thrown back.

• If a crab dies in the boat’s holding tank, it emits toxins that can poison the other crabs; one dead crab has the potential to wipe out the entire catch.

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