Home cooks who feared they'd have to settle for a Christmas Eve ham can take comfort in today's opening of the Dungeness crab season in Oregon and Washington.
The state's Department of Fish and Wildlife had warned the crab population was in such shabby shape that it might not be ready for harvesting come Dec. 15, the start date announced earlier this year. But testing showed the crabs were in condition for the season to begin just two weeks after the traditional Dec. 1 opener.
"There will be crab on the market," guaranteed lead shellfish biologist Dan Ayres, who'd previously fretted that his wife wouldn't forgive him if she couldn't get Washington crab for Christmas.
As usual, the first opening announcement only applies to the stretch of coastline that runs from the Oregon border to Klipsan Beach. The remainder of the state's coast is scheduled to open on Jan. 24.
Although the crabs looked scrawny upon initial assessment, leading shellfish experts to theorize they weren't finding enough food, Ayres says the crabs "filled out well." Crabs collected by tribal fishermen, who get a head start on the season, have impressed connoisseurs.
"The crabs we're seeing look real good, so it should be a great season," Ayres says.