Bodega Bay a refuge for Crescent City fishermen
By ANDREA GRANAHAN
They came to Bodega Bay for the crabs and then got stranded by the tsunami. Now Crescent City fishermen are boosting the economy of this resilient coastal town.
“It definitely brings capital to the area and helps the economy,” said Steve Anello, who fishes Bodega Bay and owns the Spud Point Crab Company. “The guys have got to buy their groceries and supplies here.”
Bodega Bay’s crab season opens earlier than more northerly ports, so some fishermen always move south for a month in November. This year a record number of crabs in the seas around Bodega Bay lured many more who stayed longer.
Now that fishermen are preparing for salmon season, the Crescent City fishermen have no home port to return to. Last month’s tsunami destroyed their harbor and sank 18 boats. Bodega Bay, an official federal “harbor of refuge” is living up to its designation, providing a safe harbor for them.
“When I went up there, it was shocking to see your harbor gone,” said Richard Hagel of Crescent City. He and another fisherman have rented a house and plan to fish the salmon season from Bodega Bay.
“You can’t go home again,” lamented Lucas Eaddy of the Charlie D from Crescent City. “We may end up in Eureka by the end of the salmon season, but we are here now.”
Berth rentals at Spud Point Marina are at 72 percent and rising, up from just 50 percent during the winter, said manager Noah Wagner. Many of them are occupied by Crescent City fishermen.
With no fishing industry operating out of Crescent City until the docks are rebuilt, a number of deckhands also have moved south to find work. Jacob Johnson is among them, now working for Bodega Bay fisherman Frank Bladd on the Acme.
“There’s no work up there for me with no harbor,” Johnson said.
Tatseana Repair of the Gladnik, also from Crescent City, deckhands for her father. “It kinda sucks,” she said.
Bodega Bay fishermen say they don’t mind the out-of-town competition, especially during such a successful year.
“Not in anyone’s memory has there been a crab season like this,” said Spud Point’s Wagner. “Just at our dock alone we unloaded over million pounds.”
Hagel is among the northern fishermen who have money in their pockets to prepare for the salmon season. “I’ve been able to pay off a lot of debts,” he said.
Elizabeth Schimpf of the Casino in Bodega said she has noticed an increase in her business. She runs a free shuttle service for fishermen between Bodega Bay and her bar and grill.
“It’s nice to have commercial fishermen in the Casino again,” she said. To keep them happy, she has brought in gourmet cooks who have adjusted their menus to suit the fishermen.
“They say you can’t sell fish to fishermen, but actually you can,” she said with a laugh. “We have introduced new comfort foods, meat and potato kinds of meals.”
Matt Engert of Lucas Wharf, which has a fish dock and restaurant, also has seen an uptick in business at both places.
“There’s a lot of Crescent City fishermen that come in here,” he said. “Our other customers love talking to the fishermen at the bar. Right now we are renovating the docks to serve them better this upcoming season.”
Glenice Carpenter has lived in Bodega Bay all her life and has a house on Highway 1. She noticed that the crab season attracted fishermen from other ports but also a new influx of tourists seeking the sea delicacy.
“I’ve never seen so many crab pots in all my life,” she said. “And the traffic. Sometimes I can’t get out of my driveway.”
It’s an ill wind that blows no good, as the saying goes, and it seems that even a tsunami can deliver some badly needed prosperity.