The always-popular recreational Dungeness crab season is expected to open statewide this Saturday, Nov. 7. The season’s first traps can legally be deployed at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning. Anglers, weather permitting, will get their first peek into the number of crabs on the sea floor as the quality and domoic acid testing has already begun. The early round of quality testing took place Oct. 27, showing the crabs are at a 25 percent meat recovery. Typically, the meat content will be around 20 percent this time of year. So it looks like the crabs are in great shape but the volume could be low. The domoic acid levels for this year shouldn’t be an issue either. Tests conducted in Eureka, Trinidad and Crescent City have all come back clean.
The season runs from Saturday, Nov. 7 through July 30, 2021. The minimum size is 5 ¾ 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). The limit is 10 and a valid California sport fishing license is required. For a complete list of recreational Dungeness crab fishing regulations, visit https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=150181&inline As of this writing, CDFW had not issued any information to the public regarding delay of the upcoming sport season.
Weekend Marine Forecast
Ocean conditions don’t look good for Saturday’s crab opener. As of Wednesday, gale force northerlies and steep, hazardous seas will be possible for the weekend. Saturday’s forecast is calling for northern winds of 10 to 15 knots with northwestern waves 13 feet at 12 seconds. Sunday is looking slightly worse, with winds out of the northwest 10 to 20 knots and northwestern waves 13 feet at 12 seconds and northwest 3 feet at 18 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka or 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 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.
The North Coast is finally going to see some rain this week, and it looks like the storm door may be opening. According to Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service, the first system will hit on Thursday. “The first system will move in Thursday and stick around into Friday,” said Zontos. “The next chance will be Sunday, but it looks like that system won’t be as wet. Combined systems could dump as much as 1 and 1/2 inches in the Smith basin. The Mad may see a 1/2 to 1 inch, and the Eel may get up to a 1/2 inch. Next week looks to be wet as well, with opportunities for rain every few days. Above normal rainfall is predicted for the week of Nov. 10 through the 16th.”
Weekend Tides – Humboldt Bay
• Sat., Nov. 7: high: 5:14 a.m. and 3:20 p.m.; low: 9:43 a.m. and 10:50 p.m.
• Sun., Nov. 8: high: 6:13 a.m. and 4:40 p.m.; low: 11:09 a.m. and 11:51 p.m.
Top crabbing locations
If you’re planning on heading offshore out of Eureka 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 move in toward 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 Road 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 Road 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 doesn’t look to be the case for the weekend.
Calmer seas late last week allowed the boats to head offshore for the opener of the all-depths fishery. Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing made a few trips to the deeper water and reported some good fishing. He said, “We found some really nice quality lings and some variety we typically don’t catch in shallower water.” The all-depth fishery opened Nov. 1 and will run through the end of the year north of Point Arena. Bag limits, size limits and other special area closures still apply. According to Klassen, the weekend forecast doesn’t look good for the sport crab opener. “We may have to wait until next week to set our gear,” said Klassen.
Lingcod and rockfish action has been good out of Brookings reports Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters. He said, “Lings have moved into shallow water to spawn. Big schools of rockfish also are close to shore. Pacific halibut season closed Oct. 31. Rough weather will sideline boaters this week. Swells could reach 16 feet.”
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 and the main stem Smith River from the mouth of Rowdy Creek to the Smith’s mouth. The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream is closed until Jan. 1, 2021. The Department of Fish and Wildlife 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 822-3164.
The rain coming towards the end of this week probably won’t open the river to fishing, but it should bring some fish in reports Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. “With the increased flows, the mouth and the Sand Hole should be good,” said Carson. The river is currently closed to fishing above the mouth of Rowdy Creek due to low flows.
Salmon have spread throughout the Chetco River and ODFW face a dilemma of when to open the river according to Martin. “Unlike most low-water years, when salmon stack up at Social Security Bar, this year they have already headed upriver,” said Martin. “Biologists said back-to-back storms this week and next could lead to an opener, but they want to avoid opening up and having fish stuck in the deeper holes. Fishing is fair in the estuary as schools of salmon continue to move into the river. A couple of salmon close to 45 pounds were netted Monday as ODFW collected broodstock for the hatchery.
Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.