In this area, crab season begins in mid-November and, technically, runs to June. But, 80 percent of the local Dungeness Crab are brought in by the end of December. So, to get the biggest, sweetest, freshest crabs, enjoy them before the winter's done. Plus, who wants to be eating crab during the summer? That’s the time for wild king salmon. (Unless, of course, there's a ban on fishing for them like there was in the 2008 season.)
To get the freshest crab, go straight to the source and head out to Bodega Bay where the boats come in. If you’re heading north on Hwy. 1, turn left on Eastshore Rd. and that will take you down to the harbor. If you go right on Bay Flat Rd. and follow it around the water you might see Crabby George selling fresh crab from his parked truck. (Personally, I haven't seen Crabby George for a while, but I've heard he's still out there. If someone knows differently, email me at email@example.com and let me know.)
Or, continue on the street and it will turn into Westshore Rd. where you’ll find Paisano Brothers Fisheries (1820 Westshore Rd., 707- 875-3576). You can buy crab there that was brought in earlier that day. For best taste, get live crabs and cook them when you get home. If you're squeamish about doing it yourself, then the crabs can be killed there.
If you don’t want to drive down to the harbor, you can stay on Hwy. 1 and stop off at either the Tides Wharf and Restaurant (835 Hwy. 1, 707-875-2751) or Lucas Wharf (595 Hwy 1, 707-875-3571). They both carry local Dungeness. Or, you could simply order fresh crab at either of the restaurants. If you eat at the Tides, you can get a cooked crab from the deli for about half the price you’d pay at their restaurant.
And, if you can’t make it to the coast at all, there are plenty of markets throughout Sonoma County that carry fresh, local crab. Look for the ones that have a seafood department with a tank in which the crabs are kept alive.
On the west side of Santa Rosa, G & G Market (1211 W. College Ave., 707-546-6877) has a live tank and they are known for their good prices.
On the east end of Santa Rosa, look for an outdoor stand on Hwy. 12 just north of Mission St. During the summer, it’s called Bob’s Fruit Truck. But, during the winter, just look for the sign that says, “Fresh Local Crab.”