SAN FRANCISCO—San Francisco Bay area consumers may pay a bit more this year for locally caught Dungeness crab as fishermen say they are expecting a modest, medium-sized catch.

The commercial season is set to open on Thursday from Half Moon Bay to Bodega Bay, and already boats piled high with crab pots are getting ready to hit the water.

Both fishermen and buyers said they hoped to avoid a price dispute that would delay the season, the San Francisco Chronicle reported ( http://bit.ly/UANfvG).

Last year a stalemate over price delayed the commercial season until after Thanksgiving, leaving many tables without the pile of fresh crab that has become a local holiday tradition.

Recreational fishermen who have been laying pots near the Farallon Islands since Nov. 3 have been reporting a modest, medium-sized catch this year.

Also, fishermen said fuel costs have made doing business more expensive, and if there is a smaller catch this year the price could get boosted.

Crabbers say they want $3 per pound, but buyers say they think $2.50 is fair.

"There'll be a limited amount of crabs on the market, so it is a supply and demand issue," crab fisherman John Mellor told the paper.

There will be more certainty about price after test pots are pulled, and all sides expressed hope that the two-week delay that left holiday tables crab-free in 2011 can be averted.

"We want to get crabs before Thanksgiving," Angel Cincotta of the Alioto-Lazio fish company at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf, said.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com