Sport Crab Trap Restrictions to End Monday

Sport Crab Trap Restrictions to End Monday
Hoop nets filled with Dungeness crabs are pulled aboard the Reel Steel last week out of Eureka. Beginning Monday Nov. 28 at 9 a.m., sport crab anglers will again be able to fish with crab traps.
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Mackgraphics Humboldt

by Kenny Priest

In a press release issued Monday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will lift the recreational crab trap restriction in fishing zones 1 and 2, which run from the California/Oregon border south to Point Arena, on Nov. 28 at 9 a.m. In the meantime, recreational crabbers that take Dungeness crab by other methods, including hoop nets and crab snares, are still allowed during the temporary trap restriction. The balance of the state, from Point Arena south to the USA/Mexico border (zones 3-6), is continuing the temporary recreational crab trap restriction due to the presence of humpback whales and the potential for entanglement from trap gear.

On the commercial side, the Northern California commercial Dungeness crab season has been delayed due to poor crab meat quality test results for Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties (zones 1 and 2). The commercial Dungeness crab fishery in this area is delayed until 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 16, pending another round of meat quality testing. If results indicate good quality, the fishery will open and be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that will begin at 8:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

The commercial Dungeness crab fishery in fishing zones 3-6 will also remain delayed due to presence of high numbers of humpback whales and the potential for entanglement with lines and traps in this fishery. CDFW anticipates the next risk assessment will take place on or before Dec. 7, at which time CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham will re-evaluate the temporary recreational crab trap restriction and commercial fishery delay.

Weekend weather and marine forecast
After an extended dry spell that has kept the rivers closed to fishing due to low-flows, some substantial rain is finally in the forecast. In the Smith basin, light rain is predicted to begin Sunday and remain in the forecast throughout the week. Wednesday looks to be the day with the heaviest rainfall, with up to an inch predicted. In the Eel basin, rain is also expected throughout the week beginning on Sunday. A little over a half inch is forecast for Wednesday and additional rain is expected through at least Friday.

The weekend marine forecast isn’t looking great for offshore crabbing or rockfish. As of Wednesday, Friday’s forecast is calling for north winds 10 to 15 knots and north waves 4 feet at six seconds and west 10 feet at 15 seconds. Saturday’s forecast is calling for north winds 10 to 20 knots with north waves 8 feet at nine seconds and northwest 8 feet at 15 seconds. Less wind is forecast for Sunday, coming out of the northwest 5 to 10 knots with northwest waves 7 feet at 12 seconds and 3 feet at 21 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit or You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Nov. 25 and 26 free fish days in Oregon
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is waiving all fishing licensing requirements on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to experience fishing with friends and family during the long holiday weekend. All fishing, crabbing and clamming in Oregon will be free for both Oregon residents and non-residents. No licenses, tags or endorsements are needed on those days, but all other fishing regulations apply. Visit for more info.

The Oceans

Ocean conditions have been excellent all week, but that looks to change by Friday when seas are forecast to reach 10 feet. Crabbing has been really good up and down the coast, and Eureka was no exception. “It’s been great all week, but Monday was exceptional with at least 10 keepers per hoop net,” said Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing. “We’re soaking the nets a little longer now with hanging bait, and that seems to be working. Boats are fishing both sides of the entrance and having success from 40 to 100 feet of water.” The rockfish season will run through December with no depth restrictions.

The best crabbing so far this season has been in Trinidad. Small boats and kayakers launching from the beach have been scoring quick limits inside the harbor. When the ocean has allowed, boats have done well near the bell buoy in 200 to 300 feet of water. Just outside of Prisoner Rock has also been a top spot. The rockfish season will go through December with no depth restrictions.

Shelter Cove
According to Jake Mitchell of Sea Hawk Sport Fishing, ocean conditions were perfect last week. “Some of the best conditions we’ve had all year,” said Mitchell. “We’ve had limits of rockfish, lings and crabs each day. Most of the time has been spent at Rogers Break and Gorda. There are still a few Bluefin around, but they’ve moved a little south. One was landed out of Fort Bragg on Saturday.”

“Calm ocean conditions allowed boats to get out over the weekend, with good action on lingcod and rockfish,” said Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters.  “Lingcod are in shallow water, staging to spawn. Big swells return this week. Sport crab season opens Dec. 1 on the Oregon side of the border. Surfperch continue to bite at Lone Ranch and Crissy Field. 

Eel River salmon returns
The first fish of the 2022/23 salmonid migration season arrived at Van Arsdale Fisheries Station (VAFS) on Monday, November 7, 2022. A total of 82 Chinook salmon were observed migrating upstream on the video monitoring system at VAFS; the season total stands at 82 (12 Female, 23 Male, 25 Unknown, and 22 Subadult). No steelhead yet but this is typical for Van Arsdale, located high in the Eel River Watershed. For more information, visit

The Rivers:
As of Wednesday, all North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the main stem Eel, South Fork Eel, Mad, Smith, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen, are closed. The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream, the main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River are all closed until Jan. 1, 2023. 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 at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. For more information, visit

Chetco/ Elk/Sixes
The Chetco is low and clear, but full of salmon on the lower river reports Martin. “Bobber fishing remains the best bet with low flows, although the gear restriction has been lifted,” said Martin. “Above Loeb Park, the spawn is in full swing, with salmon spawning in nearly every tail out. Rain is expected this weekend, which should give anglers another chance at drifting the Chetco, Elk and Sixes.”

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 For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email

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