Time to Shuck and shake — crab season opens Saturday

Arcata resident Mike Martino landed this large Smith River king salmon on Monday while fishing with guide John Klar. Salmon fishing on the Smith has been steady this week and should only get better as we head into November, which is typically the peak of the salmon season. Photo courtesy of John Klar's Guide Service

Arcata resident Mike Martino landed this large Smith River king salmon on Monday while fishing with guide John Klar. Salmon fishing on the Smith has been steady this week and should only get better as we head into November, which is typically the peak of the salmon season. Photo courtesy of John Klar’s Guide Service

The highly anticipated annual sport Dungeness crab season will open statewide this Saturday, Nov. 1. Here on the North Coast, winter crabbing is a tradition that dates back generations. Boats will be working the near shore waters, bays and river mouths baiting, setting and pulling pots and rings — all in the hopes of a big payout of rich, delicious crab.

When the first pots are pulled come Saturday morning, anglers will get their first peak into the health and weight of this seasons crop. The CDFW pre-season testing, which was to take place on Oct. 25, was postponed until Nov. 10 due to a lack of boats in all the testing ports. A typical year will find the meat content at around 20 percent, with the theory being that crabs will add one percent of meat a week and reach the 25 percent mark for the commercial opener of Dec. 1. Meaty crabs or not, we’re just happy to have these tasty crustaceans back on the dinner menu.

Rockfish, Halibut seasons coming to the end
The recreational rockfish season for boat-based anglers as well as the Pacific Halibut season will come to a close on Friday, Oct. 31.

Marine Forecast
The weekend offshore weather doesn’t look great, but the bigger boats should be able to get out and set some gear. As of Wednesday, Saturday’s forecast is calling for N winds 5 to 10 knots with 10-foot waves at 13 seconds coming out of the west. Sunday is looking better; the forecast is calling for N winds up to 5 knots with west waves 6-feet at 12 seconds. The forecast will likely change, so before you head out, check the marine forecast at www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka and click on the marine tab. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Weekend Weather forecast
The next system is set to hit Thursday night and will stick around into Saturday morning according to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “We could see up to 1 inch of rain in the Mad, Eel and Van Duzen basins, with an inch and a half falling in the Smith basin. After a dry Sunday, the next system will move in sometime late Monday or Tuesday morning, bringing another half-inch to the area. After that, we should be dry until Friday night with a wet weekend predicted,” Kennedy said.

Crabbing locations
If you’re planning on heading offshore and leaving pots overnight, your best bet is to start setting gear in 100 to 150 feet of water. Historically, crabs tend to be in deeper water at the beginning of the season and will move in towards the beach later in the year. If you’re soaking for just a few hours and don’t have the equipment to go deep, dropping pots just outside the entrance in 50 feet is a good option.

If you don’t have means to head offshore, you can still find plenty of crab. One of the top spots to soak a few rings is Crab Park, located at the end of Cannibal Island Rd., in Loleta. There’s access to launch a kayak or canoe in the estuary of the Eel River. You can also launch your boat at Pedrazzini Park at the end of Cock Robin Island Rd., and make your way up the estuary towards the mouth of the Eel.

Humboldt Bay also has a few good locations to catch some crab. Out in front of the PG&E plant is a good spot as well as the flat off of the South Jetty parking lot. Another top location is either side of the channel leading into the South Bay. Up north, inside Trinidad Harbor is another popular spot among the locals. You can launch your small boat, kayak or canoe right off the beach and head out to Prisoner Rock, where the bottom is sandy and 40 to 50-ft deep. Launching here requires a relatively calm ocean, which may not be the case this weekend.

To the north, Crescent City harbor is a good option for the smaller boats, especially if the ocean is rough. If you’re running offshore, South Beach from Mussel Rock to Endert Beach, in 40-feet of water, is also a good option. Straight out of the harbor in 100-feet has also been a good location.

Bait:
Squid is probably the most popular bait, but any type of fish carcass frozen from the summer will work. Raw chicken, especially drumsticks, work as well.

Regulations:
In Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino counties, the season runs from Saturday, Nov. 1 through July 30, 2015. The minimum size is five and three-quarter inches measured by the shortest distance through the body from edge of shell to edge of shell directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines) and the limit is 10. Traps and nets for Dungeness crab may not be set before 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 1. A valid California sport fishing license is required. For more information regarding recreational Dungeness crab fishing regulations and other crab species, visit dfg.ca.gov/marine/invertebrate/crabs.asp

Potential hazardous bar crossing on Saturday
For crab fishermen heading offshore, there could be potential hazardous bar condition on Saturday due to the combination of tides and swells converging at the time when boats will be headed in and out the mouth of the bay. After Saturday’s high tide at 7:55 a.m., 6.2-feet of water will be flowing out of the bay and running straight into 10-foot swells. This could be dangerous and it’s best to error on the side of caution — even if it means waiting until the out-flowing water from the bay has slowed, which usually occurs within 30 to 45 minutes prior to the tide bottoming out. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan

Weekend Tides – Humboldt Bay
Sat., Nov. 1 (High: 7:55 a.m. and 7:40 p.m.) (Low: 1:00 a.m. and 1:49 p.m.)
Standard time begins at 2:00 a.m. Sunday
Sun., Nov. 2 (High: 7:45 a.m. and 7:54 p.m.) (Low: 1:55 p.m.)

Woodley Island sport crab trips
Reel Steel Sport Fishing, Shellback Sport Fishing, and Full Throttle Sport Fishing are all booking crab trips out of Woodley Island for Saturday’s opener. Trips will generally last two hours. Departure times will depend on the tides, but most often they’ll leave sometime in the morning. To book a trip with Shellback Sport Fishing, call (707) 442-7115. Reel Steel Sport Fishing can be reached at (707) 499-4925 and Full Throttle’s reservations number is (707) 498-7473. The weekend trips fill up quick, so you’ll want to call early to reserve your spot.

The Rivers:
As of Wednesday afternoon, all North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith were open to fishing. However, the low flow closure hotline stated the So Fork Eel, Van Duzen, and Redwood Creek would close Thursday morning unless increased flows warranted keeping them open. With rain predicted for Thursday evening, it’s likely these three rivers will open back up sometime either Friday or Saturday. You’ll want to make sure and call the hotline, (707) 822-3164, prior to fishing.

Smith River
According to Mike Coopman of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service, fishing has been tough the last couple of days. He said, “The river has dropped and cleared, and it’s getting tougher to find any current. The rise we had last week probably pushed the older fish up river, but there isn’t a lot of new fish stacked on the lower end. We have a decent shot of rain coming later in the week, and that rise should bring in some new fish and rejuvenate the river.”

Lower Klamath
As of Wednesday, the lower Klamath was flowing at just under 6,000 cfs and should be plenty fishable. Depending on how much rain falls on Thursday and Friday, it may blow out by the weekend.

Upper Trinity
Steve Huber of Steve Huber’s Guide Service has been covering water from Douglas City to Del Loma and reports the rain really helped move the fish around. “There’s quite a few salmon around, and some fresh fish are starting to push in. We’ve seen quite a few fresh jacks this past week as well. I’ve been targeting mainly steelhead, and the bite has been good. There’s lots of fish around and they are mostly bright. Plugs and side-drifted roe are both catching fish,” Huber added.

Chetco River
Anti-snagging rules will be lifted after Monday, Nov. 3 and the section above Nook Creek will open to salmon fishing. The daily/season bag limit is 2 Chinook per day, with only 1 unclipped. The season limit is 20, with no more than 5 unclipped. For more information, visit http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/fishing/docs/2014_Chinook_Fisheries.pdf

Like “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com

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