The sweetest season of the year has arrived—from the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean—and Dungeness crabs are now being pulled in by local fishing boats and making their way to our favorite seafood haunts, crab feeds and markets.
Although you can no longer buy fresh Dungeness right off the boats, you can still get them live out at Bodega Bay. Here are five ways to experience and enjoy the Dungeness crab season at the Sonoma Coast and in our local communities.
1. BY BOAT
Bodega Bay Sport Fishing Center, 707-875-3344, bodegabaysportfishing.com; Miss Anita Fishing Charters, 707-875-3474, missanitafishingcharters.com; Reel-Lentless, reelentlessfishing.com.
Crab fishermen leave local harbors at first light—and you can join them and come home with a catch to call your own. Rick Powers, owner of the New Sea Angler and one of the captains operating out of Bodega Bay, said the crab excursions are wonderful recreational experiences. “They jump on my boat and absolutely have a ball. You get sustenance for your table, and you never know what you’re going to see out on the ocean—grey whales, killer whales, humpback whales, Pacific White-sided dolphin, porpoise.” Trips include fishing for a variety of ocean fish in season.
2. FRESHLY COOKED OR LIVE
No sea legs but love the salt air? Drive to the coast and pick up live or freshly cooked crabs to take home. The Tides Wharf Restaurant’s fish market carries both cooked and live Dungeness; 707-875-3554. At the Spud Point Crab Co., crabs come straight off the Anello family’s boat and into their large cooker for your fresh-cooked feast; 1860 Westshore Rd., Bodega Bay, 707-875-9472, spudpointcrab.com. The Fishetarian Fish Market offers cooked crabs to go from their fun, sustainably-minded market/café; 599 Highway 1, Bodega Bay, 707-875-9092, fishetarian.org. Can’t get to the coast? Local markets sell tons of whole crabs over the course of the season—and most will crack and clean them for you, too.
3. FOR A CAUSE
Savor cracked crab and support important community causes. The list of service clubs and fundraising events featuring crab feeds is a long one. Events start in December with the Kiwanis Crab and Pasta Feed in Cloverdale (Dec. 6) and the Rotary Club of Healdsburg’s Annual Crab Feast and Silent Auction (Dec. 13) and continue through February with the Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s annual Great Sonoma Crab and Wine Festival (Feb. 7) and the Rotary Club of Sebastopol’s annual crab fest on Valentine’s Day. Check with your favorite service clubs, fire departments and granges for special events or go to sonomadiscoveries.com for more crab feeds.
4. N THE BARREL ROOM
Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, 10701 Westside Rd., Healdsburg, 866-277-9463,
Dine by candlelight in Gary Farrell Winery’s gorgeous barrel room situated inside the cellar during one of the winery’s most popular events, The Gary Farrell Annual Crab Dinner, held on Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. Guests are treated to a multiple-course, plated dinner paired with the winery’s top single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Last year the crab selection featured crab cakes, crab salad and steamed Dungeness with lemon and drawn butter. What makes this event different? Winemaker Theresa Heredia leads a discussion about each wine during the annual event. Seating is limited so please don’t hesitate to make your plans early.
5. QUICK CRAB FIX
Spud Point Crab Company, 1860 Westshore Rd., Bodega Bay, 707-875-9472, spudpointcrab.com.
The simply prepared and piled-high fresh crab sandwich at Spud Point Crab Co., right across from Spud Point Marina, has become a favorite among locals. “It’s a quarter pound of crabmeat with a little bit of our homemade sauce on a toasted roll. They’re fantastic,” said Carol Anello, who runs the café. How does Carol know the sandwiches are so addicting? “I watch our customers lick the paper that the sandwiches are on,” she said. “People want pure crab— no added extra lettuce or tomatoes. They can get that anywhere.” Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.