Harvesting Golden King crab is no easy task! A remote and extreme habitat necessitates expertise, perseverance, and specially equipped boats.
Goldens live on the underwater volcanic slopes of the lush Aleutian Islands of Alaska at depths that reach more than 2,000 feet below sea level. They move up and down the steep walls of the Aleutian Trench in search of food, earning them a reputation as the “the mountain goats of the Bering Sea”.
The powerful Alaska Stream carries water between the more than 50 active volcanoes of the Aleutian chain into the Bering Sea. Strong winds and water levels that rise and fall over 30 feet on an average day make for intense waves and rough seas. The swift moving current brings pure, fresh feed to the Golden King crab but adds significantly to the challenge of harvest.
Only Five Vessels
Only five boats are equipped to harvest Alaska Golden King crab. To serve the deepest commercial fishery in Alaska, these vessels are designed to take on rough seas while hauling long strings of heavy pots set at 300 fathoms below sea level. Boats from the Golden King crab fleet can be identified by their large hydraulic systems or “blocks”.
Long Line Harvest
To reach the depths of the Golden King crab habitat, a long line harvest method is used. Individual pots are attached to a ground line that can be miles in length. The pots are spaced about 500 feet apart and are connected to the larger ground line using bridle lines. Having the pots connected helps to ensure that the gear stays put on the steep topography and underwater cliffs of the islands. The longline harvest also allows for greater efficiency as less time is spent searching for individual buoys that often sink below the surface of the rough Aleutian seas.
The Golden King Pots
Each Golden King crab pots weighs 800 lbs empty and over 1,000 lbs when filled with crab. To ensure that only larger males are caught, the pots are designed with escape mesh to allow the undersized crab and other small species to leave the pot. The Golden King crab fishery has maintained a thriving crab population and has never failed to open over low stocks.
As Seen on TV!
To see the long line harvest of Golden King crab in action, tune into Season 18 of The Deadliest Catch. Captain Rip Carlton and crew of the F/V Patricia Lee demonstrate how challenging it can be to catch Golden King crab!