Crab Fishing In Pacifica
With all of the hub-bub about a lack of commercially available Dungeness crab due to price disputes between wholesale buyers and fishermen, Californians from at least as far afield as Sacramento were out and about in Pacifica on Tuesday hoping to catch their own. On the Pacifica Pier, around a hundred intrepid fisherfolk ranging in age from eight to over eighty were plying the waters in search of the sometimes elusive fall catch. Armed with both crab baskets and pole-cast snares, they patiently waited for their potential meal tickets, chatting amongst each other in languages ranging from English to Spanish, Vietnamese to Mandarin.
After chatting with a couple of people fishing, I started talking with Stephen Piña of Livermore, one of those fishing on the pier. He’d brought out his daughter Jorlynn and her friend Kelly McKinney to do some crab fishing, but as of that moment had come up short. As luck would have it, Jorlynn decided to check her trap right as was chatting with her father, and she struck gold. Smiles alighted as they pulled in the trap. Not only was it a crab, but it was a big one. Jorlynn had caught a nine inch crab, and considering the legal size limit is five and three quarters, that is quite a beauty. A bystander said that a crab like that would fetch twenty dollars at market prices, not a bad return on some sardines and a little patience. Passersby were amazed at the crab she had caught, some saying it was the largest they’d seen.
The young woman created quite a buzz with her catch. People from all over the pier came to check out the monstrous crab that she’d caught. Most were impressed with the fact that a young woman caught what may well have been the largest crab of the day, and that she was poised for more. In the midst of this, I came to a realization.
The incredible diversity of the crab fisherfolk is one of the most heartening parts of the Pacifica experience. Few places in modern America have such a diverse assembly of different races, backgrounds, and ethnic groups not only occupying the same space, but actually positively interacting with each other in a place where the frequently divisive issues of race were cast aside in favor of shared experience and camaraderie. Instead of mutual suspicion, there was mutual laughter, with people cracking jokes with each other about how many crabs they’d caught and who was giving someone else some away for free. I talked with one man who said that though he was disabled and unemployed, the pier at Pacifica gave him the opportunity to stay happy every day, and a chance to escape the “riff-raff” of where he lived. Brought together with catching crabs, the Pacifica pier is a place where the idea of the American melting pot still lives, even if the pot is also full of crabs.