As most “Deadliest Catch” fans know, Discovery/Original Productions films fishing vessels and crews for two seperate crab fisheries–Red King crab and Opilio Crab. For the last four years–and that’s not including Deadliest Job and Deadliest Season– camerman have filmed fishermen in the Bering sea who ply those deadly frigid waters in search of “red” gold, looking for that big jackpot that can make their year. Some people would say that these fishermen are the stars of the show, yet others might consider the Bering sea the real star as she’s in just about every scene. But one of the biggest objects of fascination for most–including the fishermen–is the deadliest catch itself: The crab!
According to the size of the TAC (total allowable catch) this last season we’ll be seeing plenty of crab over the 16-episode span of the fourth season of Deadliest Catch. The TAC was 18.5 million pounds for Bering Sea red king crab and 55 million pounds for opilio crab. And per rationalization guidelines, each boat in the fleet was given a predetermined quota to catch. 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). Given that the TAC was the biggest its been in many years, the crews will be spending alot of time hauling metal and the boats will be turning and burning 24/7, no doubt.
Prior to the change in the crab fisheries regulations, King crab season started on October 15th and Opilio started January 15th. The starting dates have changed slightly (both fisheries now start on October 15th), but due to biological issues and market demand, the Bering sea fishermen stick close to the traditional time lines of Derby style fishing from before the regulation change.
(photo courtesy of Discovery)
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 5 feet across). Opilio crabs weigh an average of one to three pounds. And here’s some good tidbits about King and Opilio crabs to review before season 4 kicks off:
*At about $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.
*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 do not appear on radar or migrate in the same pattern each year, captains must 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.
*Fresh water, warm water or bad water circulation in the boat’s holding tank all have the potential to kill crab. In fact, being in stagnant water will kill crab faster than being left out of the water.
(Information above supplied by Discovery. Additional crab details and more available on the Discovery website)