Quality start to the Dungeness crab season

Typically, the start of the sport crab season can go two ways. If the crabs are abundant, the meat content is usually on the lighter side. If there are fewer crabs around, they are typically heavier and in better shape. This is all due to their food source – lots of crabs equals less food for them to divide, fewer crabs usually means plenty of food to go around.

Six year-old Ridge Bermers of Eureka holds a jumbo Dungeness crab caught last Sunday off of Eureka. Ridge was crabbing with his dad Blaine and brother Ryker.
Photo courtesy of Chuck Petrusha

This year’s crab season is starting off as the latter. There are fewer crabs, but the quality is pretty good for this time of the year. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing fished the opener and reports the crabs are in good shape, and they’re big. “I’d say they’re right around 70 to 80 percent full,” said Klassen. “Almost all of the crabs are jumbos, we’re not seeing a lot of medium-sized crabs. Very few are not commercial grade.” As for some of the better locations, the north side outside of the Humboldt Bay entrance fished better than the south. “On the south side, we were getting four to eight keepers per pot on an overnight soak in 100 feet of water. On the north side, they were averaging around a dozen per pot,” added Klassen. Crabbing in Humboldt Bay was reportedly slow, but better than last year. Up in Trinidad, the kayaks and small boats plugged the bay with pots and rings and enjoyed lake-like conditions. The fishing reports were similar to everywhere else, not a ton of crab around, but the quality was good. A few experienced kayakers did manage to pull limits.

Reminder: CDFW strongly encourages anglers to follow the Best Fishing Practices Guide developed by the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group. Voluntary actions anglers can employ include keeping the line between the pot and main buoy taught and vertical, reducing the amount of vertical line at the surface, avoiding setting gear in the vicinity of whales and turtles, and marking gear consistent with regulations. Best Fishing Practices Guide can be found here: http://www.opc.ca.gov/webmaster/_media_library/2019/11/2019-20_BPG_Final.pdf

Commercial Dungeness crab season delayed south of Mendocino/Sonoma
On Tuesday, the CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham issued a declaration delaying the Nov. 15 start date for the California Dungeness crab fishery south of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line after making a preliminary determination that there is a significant risk of marine life entanglement due to fishing gear.

The opening of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in that area (Districts 10, 17,18 and 19) will be delayed until Nov. 22. Pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 8283, traps may be set and baited 18 hours in advance of the opening date. A pre-soak period can commence at 6 a.m. on Nov. 21, 2019.

Before taking this action, the Director considered all recommendations and information provided within the public notice period that ended at 5 p.m. on Nov. 4 in advance of enacting this delay. The comments resulted in the Director shortening the delay from eight to seven days.

For more information related to the risk assessment process or this delay, please visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Whale-Safe-Fisheries. Commercial fishery participants should also be aware that additional delays are possible due to human health risks from domoic acid and should monitor the https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CEH/DFDCS/Pages/FDBPrograms/FoodSafetyProgram/DomoicAcid.aspx for the latest results.

For more information on Dungeness crab, please visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Invertebrates/Crabs

All depths rock fishing
For the first time in nearly 20 years, North Coast saltwater anglers aren’t limited to depth restrictions while fishing for rockfish within the Northern Management Area. According to Klassen, this opens up new water and a new variety of fish options that we don’t normally get. “Chilipepper and Widow rockfish are a couple species that we don’t get to target with depth restrictions,” said Klassen. “We also see some really nice Canary and Yellowtail rockfish.”

Weekend weather and forecast
According to the National Weather Service, dry weather is in the forecast at least the next seven days. The ridge of high pressure sitting off the coast continues to push any threats of rain to our north. There is a slight chance of a change coming next weekend, but it’s not looking very reliable.

The weekend marine forecast looks decent for offshore crabbing, with very little wind in the forecast. The forecast is calling for winds up to 5 knots out of the N on Saturday, with waves NW 4 feet at 6 seconds. The wind will pick up slightly on Sunday, coming out of the N 5 to 10 knots with waves N 5 feet at 6 seconds and NW 4 feet at 14 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or https://www.windy.com. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.

Lingcod are moving into shallow water to spawn close to Brookings reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. “Limits are being caught when weather conditions are calm,” said Martin “The weekend forecast looks good. Fishing for rockfish also is good, especially from Bird Island north.”

The Rivers:
River Closures
Currently, all the North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek, Smith and Van Duzen are closed. Sections of rivers that are open include the main stem Eel River from the paved junction of Fulmor Road to its mouth, the main stem Mad River from the Hammond Trail Railroad Trestle to its mouth and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to its mouth.

The Department of Fish and Game will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened up at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164.


The Smith remains closed to fishing above Rowdy Creek due to low flows, and not much has changed since last week reports Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. He said, “Fishing is still really slow. There are a few being caught at the mouth and a few at the Sand Hole as well.”

“Low flows in the Chetco have the bulk of the fall salmon run still holding in the estuary and in the ocean just off the mouth,” said Martin. “Fishing has been good, with a fish or better per rod for guides and many private boaters also catching fish. The estuary will continue to fish until a major rain storm arrives.”

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and fishingthenorthcoast.com for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com