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Crab Fishing Facts

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The Crabs

  • Only male king crabs measuring 6.5 inches and snow crabs measuring 4 inches from spine to spine are kept; females and juveniles are tossed back into the sea.
  • In some fisheries, as many as six crabs are discarded for each legal male kept. Such handling of the discarded crabs can result in distress, injury and possibly death to the crabs.
  • As they try to get to the bait, crabs often injure each other. A seriously injured crab serves as bait to the others, who will eat it. In fact, "ghost pots" -- pots that are lost at sea -- will continue to attract and kill crabs through this "self-baiting" process.
  • Ghost pots pose a serious problem; in some places they are as dense as 50 per square kilometer, and may catch and kill as many crabs in a year as the fishery does.
  • Sometimes crabs die during the fishing process, something fishermen try to avoid since they spoil before they can be sold. However, if the crabs are kept in a tank of circulating seawater, as most are, a few dead crabs won't harm the others.
  • Boats must, as a matter of course, unload hundreds of pounds of "deadloss" after a trip to the fishing grounds.

The Crab Count Vs. The Skipper's Wager

Diehard fans often ask how a given boat can have a different standing in the "crab count" than they do in the "Skipper's Wager." The reason for the discrepancy has to do with the difference between "total crab poundage" and "crabs per pot." The bigger boats tend to lead in the crab count, which measures total poundage, due to the following:

  1. Their decks carry more pots.
  2. Their holds are bigger so they can accumulate more crab before having to stop down for an offload.
  3. Large boats tend to have larger crews capable of turning and burning, i.e. quickly fishing numerous pots.

The Skipper's Wager which measures "crabs per pot" is any man's game. Whoever catches their first 100,000 pounds of crab in the least amount of pots wins. In this game, developing strategies to maximize "pot average" is paramount.

  1. Boats will often "prospect," which is the process of dropping a few, widely spaced pots to "test the waters." The area where a prospect pot pulls up the most crab will be where the Skippers concentrate their gear.
  2. Another method to kick up pot average is to increase "soak time" i.e. Skippers will allow the pots to sit for a couple of days before pulling them in order to allow crab to find the pot and crawl inside.

Bottom line is the "Skippers Wager" is a game of averages where as the "Crab Count" has to do with a boat's capacity and speed.

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