Sport Crab Season Slated to Open Saturday

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Fishing The North Coast

by Kenny Priest
10-31-2019
Website

The uber-popular recreational Dungeness crab season is slated to open state-wide this Saturday, Nov. 2. The season’s first traps can legally be deployed at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning. Anglers will get their first peak into the health and weight of this season’s crop as the pre-season quality tests have not taken place or the results have yet to be made public. One thing we do know is the domoic acid levels shouldn’t be an issue. Tests conducted in Eureka, Trinidad, and Crescent City all came back clean.

Word on the street is there’s plenty of crab, but they aren’t as meaty as we’d like. 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 that the season is opening on time.

The season runs from Saturday, Nov. 2 through July 30, 2020. 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. A valid California sport fishing license is required. For more information regarding recreational Dungeness crab fishing regulations and other crab species, visit http://www.eregulations.com/california/fishing/saltwater/invertebrate-regulations/

As of this writing, CDFW has not issued any information to the public regarding the upcoming sport season. We’re under the assumption here that it will open on time with no delays.

Below is a list of the state regulations that went into effect on Aug. 1 2016, regarding the crab fisheries and crab trap requirements. Dungeness crab size and bag limits are now uniform statewide.

1) Crab trap buoys must display the “GO ID” number of the operator of the trap.

2) Crab traps must contain at least one destruct device made from a single strand of untreated cotton twine size No. 120 or less that creates an unobstructed opening anywhere in the top or upper half of the trap that is at least 5 inches in diameter when this material corrodes or fails.

3) Crab traps must not be deployed or fished seven days prior to the opening of the Dungeness crab season.

4) Every crab trap must be outfitted with two rigid circular escape openings that are a minimum of 4.25 inches in diameter and located so that the lowest portion is at the most five (5) inches from the top of the trap. This is to allow small crabs to easily escape from the trap.
For a complete list of crab trap regulations, visit https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=150181&inline

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 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 looks to be the case this weekend.

Marine Forecast
Ocean conditions look good for Saturday’s crab opener, with no advisories posted as of Wednesday. Saturday’s forecast is calling for N winds to 5 knots with NW waves 3 feet at 7 seconds and NW 3 feet at 12 seconds. Sunday is looking a little rougher, with winds out of the NW to 5 knots and NW waves 4 feet at 5 seconds and NW 3 feet at 12 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.

Weekend Tides – Humboldt Bay
• Sat., Nov. 2 (High: 5:08 a.m. and 3:50 p.m.) (Low: 10:02 a.m. and 10:59 p.m.)
Standard time begins at 2:00 a.m. Sunday
• Sun., Nov. 3 (High: 5:14 a.m. and 3:49 p.m.) (Low: 10:12 a.m. and 10:59 p.m.)

North Coast all-depth recreational fishing to begin Nov. 1
In a press release issued last Friday, the CDFW announced a new recreational fishing opportunity for groundfish north of Point Arena from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, 2019.

For two decades, recreational fishing for groundfish species in deep waters off the California coast has been completely off limits, driven by the need to protect certain stocks that have been overfished. This marks the first time anglers off the northern California coast will be allowed to fish for groundfish without needing to abide by fishing depth limit regulations.

The all-depth fishery will take place only in November and December 2019, and only north of Point Arena. The newly open areas will allow anglers to target groundfish species in the midwater column, such as widow and yellowtail rockfish, as well as species found on the bottom. There are no special gear requirements, though unless otherwise specified, regulations require anglers to use not more than two hooks and one line to target groundfish. All other season dates, bag limits, size limits and other special area closures still apply.

While the all-depth fishery has been proposed since 2017, encounters with yelloweye rockfish in 2017 and 2018 exceeded the federal limit. In-season regulatory action in those years was needed to restrict depth limits in most areas of the state and also prevented the all-depth fishery from occurring. Following the outcome of the most recent yelloweye stock assessment indicating the population is rebuilding much sooner than expected, the federal limit increased in 2019, allowing the all-depth fishery this year. For more information on all-depth fishing, visit https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2019/10/25/north-coast-all-depth-recreational-fishing-to-begin-nov-1/.
For more information regarding groundfish regulations, management and fish identification tools, please visit https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/Groundfish

Weekend Weather forecast
Dry weather continues to dominate the North Coast, and it looks to be more of the same for the next seven days. “There aren’t any signs of rain through next week,” said Kathleen Zontos of Eureka’s National Weather Service. “But there is a possibility that we’ll begin to see a pattern change – possibly a wet one – beginning the week of Nov. 11.”

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.

Smith River
The Smith remains closed to fishing above Rowdy Creek due to low flows, and the fishing has been really slow below according to Britt Carson of Crescent City’s Englund Marine. He said, “Very few salmon are being caught at the mouth, maybe one or two a day. There isn’t much happening at the Sand Hole either, it’s been slow all over.”

Chetco Estuary
“The Chetco estuary is fishing well, with lots of fish caught each day, especially at the beginning of the outgoing tide,” said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. “Bigger numbers of hatchery fish arrived last week. A few fish to 35 pounds have been caught, but most are 15 to 20 pounds. With this week’s extra high tides, some of the fish are moving above the fishing deadline into the upper tidewater. The estuary will continue to fish until rain arrives.” From Oct. 1 through December 31, the daily bag limit for salmon is two adult fish per day. No more than one adult wild Chinook salmon may be harvested per day as part of the daily bag limit and no more than two total from Oct. 1 through December 3. Anglers may harvest adult hatchery Chinook salmon until their daily bag limit has been met. The daily limit for jack salmon is five fish per day and does not count towards the adult daily limit. Once the adult daily limit is harvested, anglers cannot continue to fish for jacks.


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.


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