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Affinities #16: The Catchers in the Bay

Sosha Young | November 12, 2014 | Lifestyle Story City Life

See all the Affinities photo shoots here.

For the past six months, the Dungeness crabs off Baker Beach have been enjoying a period of unfettered sexual frenzy, their watery love nests protected by law from fishermen. But when crabbing season opened on November 1, the orgy was interrupted by these neoprene-swathed predators: licensed recreational fishers who can catch up to 10 crabs a day. “You can’t fake it, or you don’t catch crabs,” says longtime crabber and ecologist Josiah Clark, 40. “You’ve got to be serious about everything.”

Over the past four years, such recreational fishers have been forming enclaves, like the so-called Lake Street Fleet in the Richmond district. They commandeer friends’ backyards to store their gear, including wetsuits to insulate them from the 50-degree water, crab traps to drop onto the ocean floor, 100-yard reels of rope, and kayaks. Shaun Loomis, 25, took up crabbing when he moved to San Francisco from Chicago last year. “You don’t have to be some sort of grizzly old seafaring person to do this,” he says. “I’m an architect, and another guy is a delivery man.” Clark says that he expected to see at least 40 kayaks on the water for this year’s derby. The objective: to haul in the 10 plumpest crabs possible.

“We live in a city where you can catch a tasty dinner right out of the ocean and share it with your friends,” says Loomis. “It doesn’t get any fresher, cheaper, or more sustainable than that.”

Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco

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